Pastor Sherri Drury
If you put the three themes from our Current Message Series together in a bowl– Rebuilding your Relationship with God, Returning to Community and Remaking Your Life— and then stirred them all up; what you would get is Restoration. One of the sweetest words in the Bible, and one of the most fulfilling and satisfying works of God.
Consider with me the recurring appearances of Restoration in the Bible:
- Striking ancient and historical images of returning, rubble, walls, gates and cities–like the ones in Nehemiah–open our eyes to the plan and works of our Restoring God.
- Filling the gospels are both teachings and meaningful soul-stories straight from Jesus, that expand our understanding of what Restoration really looks like.
- And in the wake of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection, we see testimonies full of real-life restoration evidence. They are found in every footstep of Jesus’ ministry, are littered all over the early church, and are still reverberating in faith-communities today.
- Lastly, God leaves with us not only His Holy Spirit but the ability to return over and over again to the helpful and hopeful encouragement included in the Bible–pointing us back to restoration hope at every experience of hardship, disgrace and despair.
Speaking of striking images, these are included in the Old Testament– Precious Promises: They shall be rebuilt, I will restore them, let its foundations be laid. (Isaiah 44). Words of Identity & Legacy: Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations. You will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58). Our Vision: They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61)
And speaking of meaningful soul-stories. . . . You may have heard the Story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) 200 times, or maybe this is the first. Here is the synopsis: The Son disrespects his Father by asking for his inheritance early and leaving–going and doing all that he wanted and squandering everything. He hits rock bottom eating alongside of pigs in a pig-sty, and decides he should return to His Father. He heads back and prepares a speech that centers on shame and logic: I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.
The most heart-warming part of the story is that The Father is eagerly waiting and watching for The Son to return and runs to him, loves him, and loves on him. But after all these demonstrative signs of The Father’s love — The Son is still feeling unworthy and tries to speak his rehearsed apology.
While that last scene of the story may be the most heart-warming scene of the story, the most life-changing scene of the story happens next. The Father immediately requests a robe, a ring and sandals for his Son, and to kill the fattened calf for a party. You see, each of these gifts is proof of Restoration. Robe — a sign of distinction. Ring — a sign of authority & identity. Sandals — a sign of acceptance & honor. Fattened Calf — a celebration and a strong sign to the rest of the community of the Father’s full restoration of The Son. You see, The Son doesn’t just get forgiven, he gets completely restored, back to the original relationship before he blew it.
Did you know that there is a Buddhist parable similar to The Prodigal Son? Same type of characters. Similar setting. And the plot unfolds in the same way with the same conflict. But the ending is longer . . . . . and very different from the story Jesus tells. In the Buddhist parable, the father finds the son, and when he does he chooses not to reveal himself to the son or talk to him. Instead, the father gives the son a job moving a trash pile. Then later, the father invites the son to work closer with him, but still leaves the son to live in poverty for 20 years. In this Buddhist parable, the father moves slowly so that the son can learn the error of his ways and earn his way to being entrusted again.
Truthfully, my humanity accepts this story easier. It just makes sense to exact a type of punishment from the son. But my spirit, on the other hand, craves the other story and responds with awe and praise and thanks that our God chooses to weave restoration into this repentance-and-returning-story (and every repentance-and-returning story) from the very beginning. This is the kind of God He is! And I am so glad!
Speaking of testimonies full of real-life restoration evidence, . . . restoration is a part of my testimony too. (You’ll find it in Chapter 5 of my unwritten life-story.) So I stand arm-in-arm with The Prodigal Son, Peter, Paul and many others.
And if we could see Chapter 2 of The Prodigal Son, I so hope that we would see that he allowed himself to be fully restored. And I hope that for you as well.
Because here’s the truth: If we accept rescuing but not restoration, then we are still sitting in rubble. And if we receive forgiveness but do not cooperate with restoration, then we are still sitting in our stinky hog-feeding clothes. In both instances, we are choosing to continue in disgrace. And that’s not God’s plan for us!
And speaking of those words that can point us back to restoration hope. . . . let’s be revived by them today: And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10 (NIV)
That’s right, He, himself, will restore you. This is who the God of Grace is! He will complete, confirm, support, strengthen, and establish you; He will ground you securely, put you on a firm foundation, and settle you; furthermore, He will make you what you ought to be. Amen and Amen!