Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Repairing The Damage!

This week I was away with the confirmation students at confirmation Camp.
We spent the week at camp Calumet Lutheran on the shores of Lake Ossipee.
I want to thank the congregation for making this happen.
I believe it is an important part of faith formation for our confirmation kids to be around other Lutheran kids from New England, to receive the blessings of growing in faith, and making new friends.
We always go as part of a larger New Hampshire conference so our confirmation students get to know kids from churches in Newington, Laconia, and Endfield.
One of the things the New Hampshire conference did at confirmation camp was go for a canoe ride down the Sacco River in Fryeburg Maine.
It is one of the things I really look forward to.
We have a great time canoeing, splashing each other, tipping canoes, being in God’s creation, and generally having fun.
This year we were canoeing along and we saw a rope swing to our left.
So we beached our canoes on the right side of the river on a sand bar and swam over the rope swing.
I don’t know about you but I have a general rule never to pass up a chance to go on a rope swing.
Anyway, there was this father and son who were just ahead of us who had already pulled over and were going to use the rope swing.
The kids and I arrived just as the son about the age of 9 or 10 was going to go off the swing.
Unfortunately we got in his way and he had to wait until we were safely on the shore.
I want to say that the kids were not in any way being rude or disrespectful they were simply being kids happy to be on a river about to go off a rope swing.
The father of the boy began to yell at me that we had totally taken over and it would have been more considerate to wait on the other side until they were done.
I apologized and said that he was right it was inconsiderate and asked him how we can make it right.
First, I offered to let his kid go as many times as he wanted and we would wait for him to be done.
Then, I offered for us to swim back to the other side until they were done.
To which he replied, “The damage is already done there is nothing you can do to fix it.”
The damage is already done there is nothing you can do to fix it.

I wonder how many of us have had difficulty in our relationships and thought or spoken these words.
How many friends have we lost because they did something we couldn’t stand and we simply could not repair the broken relationships.
How many times have we taken up positions that are so intractable that we stubbornly will not hear someone offering us an olive branch of peace?

I am thankful everyday that our relationship with God is never damaged to the point of no return.
I am thankful that God never says to us “the damage is done and there is nothing you can do to fix it.”
Since the time of Adam and Eve, God has been searching for ways to repair the damage.
The Bible is one long story of God trying desperately to get God’s people to notice how much he loves and cares for them.
Even though we stubbornly want to go our own ways God is always looking for a way to get into our hearts.
God has been extending to us over and over again an olive branch, trying to bend over backwards to get us to see his love for us.
This morning in our Gospel Jesus gives us a wonderful grace filled offer.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
We are all burdened down by so many things in our life.
But the greatest is Sin.
We are taken down by our selfishness, our own intractable ways, and our own thoughtless disregard for others.
Jesus offers us rest from all of that, and offers us a life of grace.

After the exchange at the rope swing with the father I was proud of the way the kids in our group processed what happened.
One confirmation student said, “Perhaps he was having a bad day and just took it out on us.”
Another said, “He must be embarrassed to act that way in front of his own son.”
They were able to process what happened in a way that showed compassion for the man.
I have to say that I did believe he had a point.
We could have/ should have stayed away until he was done.
It would have been the better thing to do.
But as St. Paul reminds us this morning we don’t always do what we are supposed to do.
We don’t even always do the thing that we know we are supposed to do.
We don’t always think of other before ourselves.
I will tell you I saw that rope swing and couldn’t wait to get on it.
I didn’t give one thought to the man and his son.
I should have.

There are lots of things we should do, but don’t.
There are lots of things we want to do, but won’t.
We confess to things done and left undone.
We confess that we are captive to sin.
We know this about ourselves.
Even people that seem like they don’t know it and come across as cocky or really sure of themselves even those people carry burdens.
Even those people know deep down that they are not good enough.
Even self righteous people know that they are sinners like the rest of us.

The only difference is, are we ready willing and able to admit our burdens?
Are we ready to give them over to Jesus?
Are we ready to take those things in our lives that hurt us, that damage us and others and give it to Jesus?

The good news is that Jesus tells us he is ready for them.
Jesus tells us he can handle our burdens.
I don’t understand Christians who cannot or will not admit their own sins.
Because our whole religious understanding of who we are is about admitting our sins and allowing God to work on us to transform them into new life.

I believe that man on the river was so burdened by his own life that he could not find his way to compassion for us who did him wrong.
I don’t believe that for Christians this is ever a stance we can take.
There always has to be ways for us to repair the damage.
There has to be grace offered to others for not being perfect.

Because our God is so gracious that he came down and lived with us.
Our God is always searching for ways to repair the damage.
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
God in Jesus Christ showed us grace and mercy.
Jesus calls us to take the burdens we have the sin we carry, the regrets, and the wrongs and put them on him so that our burden can be lighter.
As St. Paul says, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

That is where we find rest from being captive to sin.
We come to Jesus with all of it from our lives and Jesus gives our souls rest.

It is true that the good we want to do we cannot will it on our own, but through Jesus Christ we can learn to live in God’s grace.
May all of you be able to place your burdens on Jesus Christ our Lord so that you may have rest.
Thanks be to God that the damage can always be repaired so that we might have peace.

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