Sunday, April 24, 2011
Thoughts: A God of Second Chances
It is Easter. I woke early this morning, and instead of going to a sunrise service, which I like to do, I walked to the top of the quarry and alone, watched the sun rise, thinking about not what the resurrection means, not to the world, not to mankind, but how has it changed me, personally.
This morning, I found myself thinking of my former pastor at Colonial Avenue Baptist, Branan Thompson. One of his messages and themes in 29 years of ministry there was that we were not to live on a "borrowed faith", that while we may have been brought up a certain way, that until we found our own way, our own path, we were not where we needed to be. As I sat on the top of the quarry, looking towards Granville, I remembered how Peter and Paul and others disputed whether it was Ok to eat certain things. A close reading of the bible shows real disagreement and for both, it seems to have been a matter of faith. In the end, though, it was not the fact or the action at all that was important. It was that each of them had a relationship with God, and that that relationship led them to a certain set of actions that they felt, within that relationship, would keep them closer to God. Branan had a consistent message, and many of us who worshiped under his guidance took away lessons that were profound and life changing.
That whole idea of relationship, and the importance of being in touch with God so that we can build that relationship and tap into his amazing love and power, brought to mind another pastor, Carol Johnston, from Troutville Baptist. Building that relationship with God one one of her major themes, and it was part of what led me to join that church, Because without the relationship with God (and those of you who read this and are not Christian, I suspect it is the same in your faith, whatever it may be.). Without time spent in personal spiritualness, focusing our minds towards God, we are are less than we can be.
Not "bad" - I would not say that. I know many, many people who have little or no relationship with God, but know and live the "rules", and they are fine, fine people. Admirable and kind and loving who lives good lives. Good people. But less than they could be. I've had periods in my life too, where I was distant from God, relationally, and yet was still a relatively "good" person. But I was less than I could be. Less than, I think, God would like me to be.
Thinking of Easter, I thought of that, and how relationship changes things. What happened after Jesus' resurrection was nothing short of a miracle. These disciples and apostles knew Christ. They had traveled with him and followed his teaching and preaching for years. They had a relationship with him. And his death broke them. But his resurrection empowered them. Not just because it happened, but because they knew him, and were open not just to the possibility that it happened, but to the power that he offered. The power to live a changed life. The power to become something more than they were.
Because they were not much really, when you look at them before the resurrection. They were not much, if you look at them before their relationship with Christ. But within relationship... they changed a world.
Scary huh? To know that much power is available to us simply by coming into relationship with God and allowing him to work within us.
I have always felt in my mind that God is a God of second chances. Certainly the bible is full of men and women who got second acts in their lives after coming into relationship with God. Those who came to Jesus directly and got to know him in person, always came away profoundly different. Healed. Changed. Transformed. The difference was in them all the while, but it was only in relationship that it came out. That they became what they could be.
I got a taste of how transformed we can become after my divorce. I was as broken as a man could be in that time. Many things contributed to my climbing out of that hole, A wonderful Christian counselor. A dear, dear friend. Hours and hours at prayer. And David Blugerman, the pastor at Wellspring Presbyterian, who lived the transformational love of Christ, and helped me see and experience what before, had mostly been theory and words - about how forgiveness breeds a resurrection of our own spirit.
It's a journey, this faith of ours, and the path can be twisting and surprising. Often, we are not where we think we are on that path. But if we follow it in relationship with God, we get second and third and fourth chances. That is one of the sweeping themes of the Bible. It is the message of Easter. David Blugerman often says that we can't sin (fail, screw up, flounder, ruin our own lives, pick whatever is haunting you) enough to offset God's ability to heal and raise us up. The resurrection was and is the embodiment of that. And that is why today, more than any other day, we can celebrate a love that has THAT kind of power.
After reflecting on the pastors that have made a difference in my life, I ended with prayer before I walked down to wake up my daughter and get ready for church. We'll hear wonderful music in a true colonial church in Manchester, a reminder of the continuance of faith through the ages. I am sure the sermon will be good. But I have already worshiped deeply.
The picture is from behind my house, one of the lilac bushes, just beginning to bud out. Here in Vermont, we are coming off the worst winter in 43 years, and so spring, even the first hints of spring, has a special glory to it. In the same way, after a tough time in life, faith, and rediscovering relationship with God through prayer and reading and meditation, can have a special glory after we have been through rough times without it.
May you all have a blessed Easter.