Restoration

Sermon Delivered on July 1, 2012 – Season After Pentecost (5B) 
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Acts 5:12-24
Mark 5:21-43 [Dramatic Interpretation]

Restoration is such a positive word! It offers the hope of holding on to what is good while improving the bad and dysfunctional. As a boy I can recall my grandparents restoring an old farmhouse in North Georgia. I had no idea at the time what they must have gone through to raise the sagging wrap-around porch and replace the ancient newspaper they found in the wall with actual insulation.

Restoring that house took them a few years, and I would bet a few more dollars than they expected. I never heard them complain, as it was not their way to do so. All I know is that they enjoyed themselves, and they used the opportunity to create a home of hospitality for others.

Restoring old homes is not uncommon these days – even as our culture becomes more interested in disposable and temporary solutions. People refer to it as flipping homes, and they do it to turn a “quick” profit. There is even a show called Flip That House to tempt you with the idea that someone out there is doing it successfully!

But if any of you have ever tried to restore a house or a car or just about anything you deem worthy of restoration, then you know that it can only be done as a labor of love. How nice it would be if we could do like they do in the insurance commercials! You’ve seen the one – the one where the guy peels off the old wrecked exterior to reveal a new car underneath!

Now, some might present Christian faith in the same light. All you have to do is accept, believe, and confess and “Poof!” you’re just like new – maybe even better! Perhaps it does work that way for some people, but I can tell you that it has never worked that way for me. In fact, I don’t know a lot of people that it has worked that way for.

The reality is – for most of us – that we still carry around our dents and dings. In our scripture today, David, the model of a man after God’s own heart, demands that Saul’s and Jonathan's death be remembered in song. He doesn’t ask for closure – he demands openness. And restoration is offered for Saul in the nation’s ability to claim him as an honored leader, rather than a selfish scoundrel.

In Acts and in Mark’s gospel we find a connection between faith and healing and restoration. We also find religious and civic leaders who just can’t allow themselves to believe that the power of God is active and present and in their midst. Aren’t we like that sometimes? I know I am.

I’m not certain if that is because I don’t understand how God could be magically intervening in one circumstance and not another, or if it is because I don’t want to be restored. Restoration is hard, and it requires letting go of some things. Restoration means transformation and transformation means changing, because even things that are restored to “like new” condition are not the same as they were originally created.

Sometimes a restoration offers improvements on the original – but either way it means becoming something new. Sometimes, I have to admit, I can be just like the religious authorities – doubting that restoration is possible. Though I remain skeptical of miraculous healings, I think there is something crucial in the story of the woman with the hemorrhage that can offer us some hope.

In the dramatic reading we focused on her restoration to community. We imagined what her life must have been like to have been an outcast for the same number of years as the little girl Jesus healed had lived. We did not talk about her specific experience of restoration though. In the text, we find that first “she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Then she confessed her action in trembling and fear. Only then was her healing complete, as Jesus restored her to community by calling her “Daughter,” and proclaiming her to be healed in the presence of others.

And that puts us in a very difficult place as the Body of Christ. For we, as Christ’s disciples are to do as he did – to such an extent as we can. Faith healing aside – given that we all have differing gifts – Jesus went with people to their homes. Jesus stopped when a person of great need caught his attention. Yet Jesus, God incarnate as he was, did not heal everyone. And yet Jesus, incarnated in the church as the Body of Christ, offers healing to everyone.

Healing of every disease, infirmity, and addiction may not be possible – but restoration is. Restoration is not only possible, but should be the expectation of a community of believers. We are not here to patch and spackle or try to peel away the wreckage. We are here to be transformed into people, and into a community, that offers transformation and restoration. We are not here to be perfect - or even good. We are here to proclaim that in our brokenness God is present. We are here to be the body of Christ, broken and poured out for the world.

I don’t know how you will be broken and poured out, but I do know how we do will be. I know it because I have seen it. I have seen members who have felt called into ministry and become elders on Session after a lifetime of saying, “Nope, not me!” I have seen habitual visitors step forward and claim this community as their own. I have seen our brokenness in the anxiety of our choir as we seek new leadership. This is not because we are afraid that the pretty sounds will go away. It is because sacred music is part of the way that we worship and glorify God! And it is there – in our deepest anxieties of identity and purpose – that God is offering the most profound opportunities for transformation that we can imagine.

And it happens here all the time. I have seen members and friends transform discarded items into treasures that delight the souls of those who have been told that they are not good because they did not get the things that good boys and girls get – or because they could not get for their children what the good parents get for their children.

I’ve seen peanut butter and food bags sustain people who only know how to carve out a sliver of survival from the streets and the woods. I have seen a congregation transformed from guilt over not having funds to assist every needy person into a congregation that knows its limits, is proud of what they can do, and hopes to be able to do more as we grow in faith. I have seen a congregation that stands on the corner today as it has for years past and tells the world to come and reach with us for the hem of Jesus as he passes by – for this is a place to experience, explore, and express the love of God!

That is the new vision statement our Session struggled over for six months. It is a statement of identity to compliment our mission. “A place to experience, express, and explore the love of God” is the way we see ourselves, and it is the way we want to be known in this community.

The thing is – if we take that vision seriously – that does not mean that this physical space is the place to do that. It means that we – even with our brokenness, perhaps especially because of it – are that place. The church, the kirk, the gathering – the church does not stay in a building like some tryst in Vegas. For we are the Body of Christ – broken, blessed, and poured out for the world.

And it is here, at table, that we proclaim the offer of restoration, the promise of transformation, and the opportunity to live as forgiven sinners – constantly in need of the same grace we offer and proclaim. If we listen closely we will hear him say, “Child, get up!” And from our slumber of death we approach this table with a hunger and a thirst that can only be satisfied through words of the One who proclaims that we are healed through faith and restored by the One whose love transforms everything. May it be so with me. May it be so with you. And to God be the glory, now and always. Amen.
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