Ruth Woodliff-Stanley

Year B

Fifth Sunday in Lent


March 21, 2021

Revised Common Lectionary

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Paintbox. If you're new to the site, you can learn more by visiting the about page. Each week you'll find links to interdisciplinary lessons followed by my collecting question for the week and then my personal reflection.

This week, I'm reflecting on how, after the trauma of exile, the people of Judah and Jerusalem experienced a new intimacy with God and with one another. What had been externally held truths became internalized matters of the heart.



Current Events & World Affairs

"Stop AAPI Hate"

Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University

Website for Center focused on reducing racism against Asian American Pacific Islander communities, which has been on the rise in this country during the covid 19 pandemic.

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Can you recall a time in your life when your love for someone—or perhaps for a people—moved from being an external abstraction to become an internal, lived experience in you? How can we nurture this move in our world?


The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.—Jeremiah 31:31-34

This week’s lesson from Hebrew scriptures is written in the wake of collective trauma. Thousands of people had been deported. Cities had been laid to waist; citizens brutalized and murdered. Sacred sites, including the temple, had been destroyed. In light of the devastation of his people, Jeremiah offers consolation, a vision of a new dawn. The move he makes is not to say, “external circumstances will magically resolve.” Rather, he offers a covenant intended to endure in every external trauma the people could imagine. And they could doubtless imagine the worst, based on experience. The reason the covenant contained a new hope is that, for the first time in collective memory, the prophet makes a new move: the move to interior landscapes of the heart. No longer will what is right and wrong be on stone tablets alone, with servants who obeyed what was presented to them by an outside authority. Now, the deep wisdom of the law would become interior. “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” These have been God’s people. That fact is not what is new. Yet, this is a very different relationship Jeremiah describes. What has been mediated externally is now, in a world where unspeakable grief and loss are daily in the collective memory—replayed in moments of each day—now, in this new world, what matters most is no longer simply a matter of the head. Now, God can write it directly on the heart. Which opens an entirely new type of relationship between the people and God. They can belong to each other in a way only possible when love is internalized, written on the heart.

Internalizing what matters most happens often through trauma. No one wants it; no one seeks it. Yes, its arrival inevitably clarifies reality. Its arrival quickly reorients its recipients toward the essential.

This week, we have had yet another collective trauma in the massacres of eight people in Atlanta, six of whom were Asian, seven of whom were women. The names released to date—Delaina Ashley Yaun; Paul Andre Michels; Xiaojie Tan; Daoyou Feng; Julie Park; Hyun-jeong Park Grant. These horrific acts of violence and sense loss of precious lives clarifies yet again the urgency of our ongoing work. Work to stop aggressive hatred against Asian Americans. Work to stop misogyny and race hatred in all its forms. Work to prevent such cruel violence in all its forms against all people. And work, also, to combat internalized demons, addictions, self-hatred, mental illnesses, and all other forces that lead to such devastating acts. From the rage elicited by such gruesome loss, we work.

It is clear that while legislation is essential, we cannot legislate a respect for the dignity and worth of every human being. The capacity to see the other as my beloved, cherished sibling on this fragile earth is a matter of the heart. Change, of the sort we desperately need in this land, is a matter of conversion—a turning of the heart. We have a pressing need to develop the capacity to internalize what has always been God’s desire for us—radical love for the other. May the traumas of this life compel us to internalize compassion, courage, and respect for every person. May we no longer need trauma to motivate us to change and grow. May the law of love be written on our hearts. May there be no room there for anything but love.