Monday, December 05, 2011

Repairs Needed

At church yesterday, our teacher spoke on John the Baptist's call to repentance.  

Repentance is a word that has always offered me hope, and yet the suggestion that I repent from my multitudinous failures and shortcomings has always filled me with a certain amount of despair.  Because I have done that.  Many times.  And I'm still battling the same old thought patterns and outright sins.

Our teacher yesterday took the opportunity to preach on repentance and turned the spotlight on grace.

He told about a job he'd once had, as an electrician, in one of the most grace-filled environments he'd ever worked in.  He told of frying out two expensive volt meters before he realized that the generator he was testing was way over the maximum voltage the meters could handle.  When he admitted his mistake to his supervisor, the man said, "Don't worry about it.  We'll send them out and get them fixed."

He suggested that repentance was a call to grace, to hearing the Lord say, "Don't worry about it. We can fix that."

And I liked that.  Repentance can sometimes, in my wrong-headed scheme of things, feel like whiplash after whiplash:  Failed again.  Failed again.

When really, repentance is a chance once again to turn myself and my perennial problems over to the One who made me, who knows how to fix me.  Way better than I do, though I spend so much time trying.

After the sermon, we came to another collect in the liturgy, which mentions Christ returning as Judge, and my alarm bells started ringing.  See, I've got to get fixed--he's returning to judge me!

But the next part of the collect is so perfect:

Father in heaven, who sent your Son to redeem the world and will send him again to be our judge: give us grace so to imitate him in the humility and purity of his first coming that, when he comes again, we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith....

How do I imitate him in the humility and purity of his first coming?  It's like Christ said, "Unless you become as a little child...."  It's like the sentimental poem about the child demanding that his father fix his toy and the father saying in the end, "But you would never let go of it."  It's exactly what was taught in the sermon.  We repent like a little child expecting grace from a loving parent.  We repent of trying to solve our own problems and give them to God.  We repent of trying to fix our broken selves, and we give ourselves over to the Creator and Fixer of our souls.

And we accept that he may not fix us yet.  We may have more to learn from being broken.  We may serve his purposes better in our brokenness.  We can't demand anything of him--perhaps there lies the judgment.  But in the humility and purity of little children, we can be with him, rest in him, trust him.

May he find me in that state when he returns, like a little child, "ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith."

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