There is a famous hymn which ends with the beautifully evocative cadence ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’. This line prompts our hearts into a response to the Jesus story which connects with our deepest longings.
The Passiontide gospel readings draw us into the journey Jesus walks as he makes his way into Calvary and resurrection. We see Jesus at the dinner table, his feet anointed with the most expensive of perfumes, we watch Jesus share a simple meal with his friends, we see Jesus wash his disciples feet, we see Jesus betrayed with a kiss, arrested and bound. We watch the unfolding lies of the Kangaroo court Jesus is submitted to, and we watch the brutality of crucifixion. It is a mesmerising journey – full of questions and at times simply bewildering. Yes – we are lost in ‘wonder’ at these events – Jesus, who previously had been the protagonist in healings and teaching, now simply surrenders and enters into the events without protest or justification.
We are told in John 3: 16 that God demonstrates his love for the world by this action of Jesus. Jesus so identifies with us in our weakness and powerlessness – and in doing so God’s love is revealed. It is something real and true – and our only response can be one of love. I love because I am loved. Loved by a ‘love divine, all loves excelling’.
As love tugs at our hearts, as love spills into our thinking, as love washes our guilt we can only ‘praise’ the God who gives us Jesus. Even when the worst of life is lived – God is in the midst. Perhaps especially then, the divine presence is revealed with a clarity and transparency not found anywhere else. We ‘praise’ through the singing of hymns, by lifting our heads, by allowing our thinking to be centred on the goodness which abounds – even when circumstances appear so challenging and bewildering.
In Mark’s gospel we are told that the Roman centurion, a gentile, recognised the full reality of Jesus at the moment of death – at the point of utter weakness Jesus’ identity is laid bare. When he ‘surveys the wondrous cross’ his eyes are opened to what is really true.
This is one of the distinctives of the Christian community – when life simply doesn’t seem to add up, when life events seem to conspire against us, when there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel – it is then we are ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’. This is truly amazing – defies our seasoned logic, but yet is the call of our worship week by week.
We then become a people of ‘praise’ – a ‘praise’ found in every detail of life, no matter how small, inconsequential or bewildering.