For two years in a row now, we've been privileged to visit Florida during Lee's spring break. His break is more of a late-winter vacation, because it's always before the official start of spring. Florida has provided a warm place to relax, and we are grateful.
When we were there last year, we saw a skywriter perform. Here's what the pilot blazed across the sky:
This year, we saw a skywriter perform once again. Who knows, perhaps it was the same pilot! Here was this year's message:
We didn't get to see the finished words here, but you know what they are. The skywriter was spelling out "Jesus loves you."
I've been thinking a lot about these two messages lately. Just a few weeks go, I saw TV footage of a street demonstration of some kind. One of the participants was holding up a poster stating, "Jesus loves you but God is holy." I have no idea what the demonstration was about; it could have been any number of hot-button issues, I suppose.
That sign made me cry.
It contained two important facts, of course. Jesus does love you--no matter who the "you" is. And God is holy. But why would those statements be linked with the word "but"? As if they are in contradiction to each other? As if God and Jesus were in disagreement about something?
Today, Good Friday, we commemorate the greatest act of sacrifice ever made--the crucifixion of Jesus. After living a life free from any kind of sin or guile, after teaching and loving people and reaching out to those most despised by society and healing the sick and restoring sight to the blind, Jesus allowed himself to be put to be tortured and put to death. Jesus died so we could live. Yes, Jesus loves us.
And that radical plan for the salvation of humankind--the son of God living on earth as a human, teaching people how to live, allowing Himself to be killed--that plan wasn't just the work of Jesus. That was the work of all three members of the Trinity. They all suffered for us. They all love us.
Yes, for sure, God is holy; so are Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But let's not take the idea of "holiness" and turn it into a word that means distant, far off, unapproachable. Because that's not the way God is at all. God is right here. God is good. God is full of love and compassion. The words are so familiar that they can seem trite, but they're not: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
Once when I was participating in a retreat for Christians, I heard something that I'd never thought about before, something that imprinted itself on my very soul. A number of us all had our heads bowed in prayer, and then the leader asked us to say out loud what we knew to be true about God. From around the room came one comment after another: "God is good." "God is merciful." "God is gracious." "God is glorious." Those were all good and true statements, and we all murmured our assent to each one. Then one member of the group, a very wise man, softly added, "God is Christlike." I confess that my head snapped up and my eyes flew open--and I wept. Of course this is true. God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one. They are all like one another.
My grandmother was a precious woman, one of those sweet ladies who sent birthday cards to every young person she knew. She worked for many years at an elementary school, and she was loved by hundreds of kids, so she sent a lot of cards. She usually tucked a $2 bill into those cards. And she always signed them the same way. On every card, she wrote,
Smile. God loves you. So do I.
As I remember the events of this day, that's the message I'd like to put on a poster.
A blessed Good Friday to you, my friends. What message would you like to share on this day?