Friday, April 29, 2005

Like Being Peas and Carrots with God

[This is a message prepared for a Women's Renewal Weekend sponsored by our congregation, scheduled for April 30, 2005. The topic is reconciliation.]

Second Corinthians 5:17-19

Have you ever noticed how you feel following a big argument with a friend or family member?

I remember a few years after my wife and I were first married nearly thirty-one years ago, we had a huge fight. It started at home during breakfast and it kept going as we brushed our teeth, got dressed, and she did her make-up. It continued in the car as I drove her to her office and even in the parking lot of her office’s building on a busy German Village street in Columbus. Finally, we both looked at our watches and realized that we had to be going. She got out of the car and walked into the office. I drove away to my job.

I don’t know how my wife felt at that point, but I can tell you how I felt: Like someone was stretching my innards on a rack. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and it felt like I was living on one side of a great yawning chasm while my wife was living on the other.

To be honest, I can’t remember what the argument was about. And my wife is so good at moving on with life that she probably doesn’t even remember the argument. (Sometimes we have arguments over perfectly benign events that I remember and she swears never even happened!) But the point is that our argument of so long ago wouldn’t be a fading memory with us if it weren’t for the fact that somehow, some way, we found a way to bridge that chasm. We figured out how to be reconciled to each other.

I’m sure that apologies played their part. That’s another thing that my wife is always good about and I try to be. Erich Segal wrote in his now-ancient novel, Love Story that, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But I think that John Lennon, appearing one night on The Dick Cavett Show back when Segal’s book was popular probably was more accurate: “Love means always having to say you’re sorry.”

Apologies have a way of clearing away the debris that anger plants in our heads and hearts, debris that can become bricks with which we wall ourselves off from each other if we’re not careful.

If the way we feel after blow-ups with those we care about can be described as deserts, reconciliation is like walking in a lush garden full of fresh water and tasty fruits. (Sort of like the Garden of Eden!) When we’re reconciled with someone we love, it’s like being Forrest Gump and Jenny: We’re peas and carrots and we belong together.

In our Bible lesson, taken from the apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in the ancient city of Corinth, he writes, “So if anyone is in Christ Jesus, there is a new creation…”

That means that from the moment we put ourselves in the hands of the crucified and risen Jesus, God makes us new. It’s like we go back to the Garden and get new beginnings. The chalkboard gets erased, the flub-ups on the computer are deleted. All our sins are forgiven and we get to tackle life with the fresh breath of God filling our every moment.

That’s why Paul says, “Everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” That’s us He’s writing about, we followers of Jesus! We’re the people of the fresh start.

But how does this happen? Paul explains it this way: “All this is from God Who reconciled us to Himself, through Christ…”

Now, that’s amazing when you consider it. When two human beings reconcile, it’s always a transaction between two sinners. Even in those cases when one person is guiltier than the other, neither side is ever blameless.

But when you think of the chasm that existed between God and us, because of our sin, you see that we are the ones to blame and not God. As someone has said, “If God seems distant, you can be sure that He’s not the one who moved.”

You and I can shove God out of our lives. He respects it when people make that decision. But whenever God moves, it’s always toward us. That's what God has done through Jesus: Moved toward us.

Some of you know that one of my favorite passages of Scripture is another bit of writing from Paul, found in his letter to the first-century Philippian church. Scholars are almost unanimous in saying that in this passage Paul was quoting a song that early Jesus-Followers sang when they worshiped together in their homes. He writes this:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, Who, though He was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death---even death on a cross.

“Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:4-11)
One of the values of these renewal weekends is that they give participants the chance to stop, take a deep breath, enjoy others’ company, and maybe even find God again.

But you know, the first time I went to one of these, I had to ask myself, “Mark, if you’re finding God again, how was it that you happened to lose Him in the first place?” I don’t mean that I’d completely lost contact with God. I just mean that, in a way, I had misplaced Him, more accurately, left Him out of my life, and coming to this weekend reminded me again that God is always as close as I want Him to be.

There are lots of things that can create chasms between God and us.

Sometimes, like the writers of the Psalms, we get angry with God; but unlike those writers, who kept on talking with God even when they were furious with Him, we cut off communications.

Sometimes, we get busy and feel that we just don’t have the time to be in fellowship with God.

At other times, we become so convinced of our self-sufficiency and ability to handle whatever comes down the pike, that we feel we don’t need God.

And sometimes, we feel so sinful or unworthy, that we convince ourselves we can’t talk with God.

If you’ve ever felt any or all of these things, this weekend comes to you with Good News!

God has built a bridge across the chasm between Him and you. That bridge’s Name is Jesus.

The turmoil in our hearts and spirits, akin to what I felt after that long-ago argument with my wife, can be calmed. It’s simply a matter of confessing our sins and all the other things that keep us from a close fellowship with God, asking Jesus to take them away, and inviting Him to be with us.

When we do that, we are reconciled to God.

It’s like walking in a lush garden.

God and we become like peas and carrots.

God becomes, whether for the first time or once again, our Lord, our Friend, our Shield, our Fortress. Through Jesus, we are one with the God Who loves us more than anybody else ever has or ever could!


Deborah White said...

Wow....that's inspiring and thought-provoking. And quite extraordinary writing.

Anonymous said...

"If the way we feel after blow-ups with those we care about can be described as deserts, reconciliation is like walking in a lush garden full of fresh water and tasty fruits."

Thank you so much for this. I needed to hear this.