Saturday, November 07, 2015

The God Who Restores

[This was shared during the graveside service for Dan, the father of a member of Living Water Lutheran Church, earlier today. He had been an active member of a church elsewhere, but had moved to the area after being diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.]

Job 19:23-27
Psalm 46
John 11:21-27

First of all, I pray God’s peace and encouragement and the hope of Jesus’ resurrection on all of you in the times to come.

I did not know Dan. But through you, his family, I learned a little about him the other day. I know that he leaves a hole in your lives. His seems to have been a strong presence always. Not flashy or demonstrative. Not judgmental or free with unsolicited advice. But a man who demonstrated his love by his deeds more than his words. A man who was firm and fair with his children as they were growing up and then respectful of their adulthood. A man who derived a sense of pleasure in knowing how things worked and in restoring old cars that from the before pictures looked beyond repair.

And it’s to this last image from Dan’s life that I want to turn your attention briefly now: the restorer of old cars. I have a lot of respect for people who can do that. To me, there are few things more beautiful in this world than a restored car. To make the restoration happen, you have to possess several qualities.

First, you must have the belief that what others might write off as hopeless is possible. The old, worn out, even dead, can be restored. You have to be able to see the possibility of new life in what others dismiss as a junker.

Second, you must have patience. Whenever you restore anything old, you run into obstacles. Sometimes it’s hard to find parts. Often, you have to improvise. If you’re going to restore an old car, you have to have patience.

Third, you have to have talent. You must have the ability to do the job. For some of us, restoring an old car would be an impossible task. But if you have the ability, you can accomplish a lot.

What our lessons from Job and from John’s gospel tell us today is that God is in the restoring business. He wants to restore us, free us from the power of sin and death. In Revelation, God says, “Behold, I make all things new.” And in 2 Corinthians, we’re told that if anyone is in Christ--if anyone believes in Christ, they are a new creation! That’s restoration!

From what I’ve been told, Dan had a tough childhood, a time of life brightened by going through it with his brother Bob. Nonetheless, we all know that not everyone gets free of the effects of difficult childhoods. People often replicate the ways of their elders in the way they are with their own families. From what I’ve been told, Dan didn’t do that.

I suspect that’s because of the gracious restoration from God Dan received when, through the ministry of a pastor he got to know, came to have a faith relationship we meet in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, God demonstrates that, like the restorer of old cars, God writes no one off as a helpless case; God has patience with us--the Bible says that God “remembers that we are dust”; and God has the power and the ability to make anyone brand new! He then empowers us to love and forgive others the way He loves and forgives us.

The restoration God gave to Dan allowed him, to be a different parent than his own parents had been. It allowed him to be the means by which Christ brought new and everlasting life to his beloved brother Bob.

Here’s the thing: God loves us all with a passion we can hardly imagine. God made us. We are His children. And though God is a gentleman who will never force a relationship with Him upon us, He wants to restore us. He wants us to enjoy an eternal relationship with Him desperately.

That’s why Jesus, God in the flesh, came into the world to take on Himself the burdens of our sin, even though He was sinless. He died, taking the punishment for sin we deserve. Then He rose from the dead, certifying His power over not just sin, but also over death, for all who turn from sin and surrender their lives to Him as their God, Savior, Lord, and King. As Jesus puts it: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

We can be assured this day that because he trusted in Christ as his Lord and Savior, Dan is alive and fully restored in the presence of the God to Whom he surrendered his life. Beyond the gates of death, in the presence of God, there is for the believer in Christ, no more Parkinson’s Disease, no more suffering, no more dying, no more tears.

And for those who are still here on earth, who follow Jesus Christ, there is the promise of God’s loving presence, the fellowship of believers, and the promise that the God we know in Jesus will continue to restore us day by day in this life and will give us a place in eternity with all of Christ’s saints, including Dan, when the dead in Christ rise again. There we will live eternally restored, the people God made us to be when He first knit us in our mothers’ wombs.

If you’re not today following Jesus, I invite you to do so. Turn to Him and live, now and in eternity.

May God give you comfort, hope, and peace. Amen

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