Grace to Receive the Benefits

Almighty God, you gave your only Son to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and an example of godly living: Give us grace thankfully to receive his inestimable benefits, and daily to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The (biodegradable) confetti has settled in our yard, but I can still see pastel scraps peeking out from rocks and mixed in with the dirt where the poppies are now blooming. The evidence of the Easter we ushered in with neighbors and strangers and friends weeks ago has weathered rain and stomping bare feet and our wild grass we are calling a “meadow lawn.” Easter, and the whole 50 days leading up to Pentecost, can feel like a strange season to me. We blasted the horns and made a parade and it all felt so victorious as we sang “Christ the Lord is risen today! Aaaaaa-le-luuuuu-iaaaa!”

In our family, we have been working for years to make the day of Easter and the season of Easter feel like the biggest event of the year. I still think it is a good endeavor, but this year I struggled to stay in celebration mode as the first week of Easter trudged on, minute by minute. I felt the tension of my resurrected reality colliding with the death I felt so keenly in my failure to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Though I wanted to say yes to everything from champagne for breakfast to full days of play, I was stifled by the weaknesses I had just seen nailed to the cross on Good Friday. Though my temper and my impatience and my selfishness got buried completely with Jesus in one swift event, my being sanctified is happening by the smallest degrees at what seems like the slowest pace. Even now, as I look at the flower ceiling I need to deconstruct from our ceiling, I notice the flowers have all dried and the orchid petals have mostly dropped to the floor where my toddler has found and delicately dropped them in my morning coffee. The brass tax of it is this: though I am resurrected with Jesus, my life on this earth means even celebration season isn’t without its demons.
As I read the Collect this week, I noticed our petition, “give us grace thankfully to receive his inestimable benefits” and realized that in the Easter season we enjoy that His celebrating heart and enduring joy do not run out like mine. His benefits cannot be contained even inside the biggest party– even if the whole world was one resounding ALLELUIA, His benefits would surpass it! So, we ask for grace to receive the benefits– to be filled up by His glory and beauty and steadfastness and grace and joy! And for what? We are filled up with His benefits so that we can “daily follow His footsteps.” As I meditated on this prayer, Psalm 103 came to mind, so I will end by sharing from the Message Bible what some of those (sometimes abstract) benefits are. As I live in between Jesus’ coming and His coming again, I am able to daily follow (and celebrate!) His footsteps only if I first receive His benefits.
Psalm 103
1-2 O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
  O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!
    He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
God makes everything come out right;
    he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
    opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
    God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
    keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long;
    like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
    leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always,
    eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
    as they follow his Covenant ways
    and remember to do whatever he said.
God has set his throne in heaven;
    he rules over us all. He’s the King!
So bless God, you angels,
    ready and able to fly at his bidding,
    quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless God, all you armies of angels,
    alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are—
    everything and everyone made by God.
And you, O my soul, bless God!

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