25 October 2015
The Scriptures are clear – God is in the business of restoration. How this restoration happens, and what its results are, can be surprising. This week reveals the importance of restorative relationships in our experience of God’s restoration, and in the quest for a world of justice, peace and love.
May we seek to build these restorative relationships as we worship together this week.
Job 42:1-6, 10-17: Job recognises that he had spoken without knowledge, and that he has now encountered God. Then God blesses Job beyond the prosperity he had at first.
OR Jeremiah 31:7-9: God’s promise to restore all of Israel’s people, including the weak and marginalised, and bring them into a life of peace and well-being.
Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22): A song of thanksgiving for God’s restoration received when the Psalmist sought God. Though the righteous have troubles, God delivers them.
OR Psalm 126: When God restored the fortunes of God’s people, they were so joyful, and now they continue to pray that God will bring them prosperity and joy.
Hebrews 7:23-28: Jesus is an eternal priest who constantly prays for God’s people. He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day because he offered himself once and for all.
Mark 10:46-52: As Jesus enters Jericho a blind man named Bartimaeus shouts out asking for Jesus to have mercy on him. Then Jesus calls the blind man, and asks him what he wants. When he answers that he wants to see, Jesus heals him, and he follows Jesus.
REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
There is no question, when faced with this week’s readings, that God is biased toward restoration. Every reading speaks about God’s restoring, saving work in some way. Job has a transforming encounter with God and is restored beyond the prosperity he had enjoyed before his trial. God’s people are assured of God’s restoration by Jeremiah, who includes the weakest and most marginalised people in this promise. Both Psalms reflect celebration at God’s restoration from trouble or from exile. In Hebrews Jesus is portrayed as the one who intercedes for God’s people and who offered himself as the only necessary sacrifice. Finally, Bartimaeus receives his sight, which not only restores his vision, but also his life. The key to these stories, though, is that they are not just about restoration of circumstances, but are about restoration of relationships, especially with God. Ultimately this is the truth in all restoration stories. It can be comforting to have our outward circumstances restored, but it is when our hearts are restored, when we are delivered from the fear, self-protection, defensiveness, and isolation our brokenness or suffering has brought on us that we are truly saved. The challenge for us this week is to be people who find our restoration in relationship with God and others, and who, as we work for justice, remember the humanity of those we serve, bringing them into safe, healing relationships.
CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
When we speak about justice, a lot of our language reveals a bias toward what has been called “retributive justice” – the “punishment” of offenders, and the restitution that “balances the scales” and “evens the score”. Yet God’s justice appears to be more biased toward “restorative justice” – making things whole and bringing about the healing of both perpetrator and victim, and of society as a whole. The role of community in this restoration cannot be over stated. If we are to view God’s justice in these restorative ways, then we cannot ignore the importance of the restoration of the heart, and of relationships. Those who have been punished by society for crimes, cannot become healthy contributing members of society without strong, supportive relationships. Those who have been marginalised through poverty, sickness or trauma, cannot find healing and a sense of security without protective and healing relationships. In every circumstance where we work to bring God’s restoration to others, we need to ensure that networks of relationships are provided. The church, of course, is the perfect place to create and nurture these relationships, which is why, when we allow ourselves to become retributive, we fail in our mission.
In our personal lives we all too easily define justice in our own terms, and in our own favour. We use this sense of justice to hold on to our grudges and to wish for revenge against those who have hurt us. And we do this even with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Yet, as we seek healing and restoration for ourselves, we must also recognise that our restoration is linked to that of others who are hurting, of our society, and even of those who have hurt or offended us. If we seek justice and restoration for ourselves, we can do well by asking who, in our communities and in our lives, need restoration and justice. As we seek to bring God’s justice to others, we often find it for ourselves. And as we allow God’s restoration to lead us back into relationships with others, we find the healing we need. There is a virtuous cycle at work here: Restoration drives us into relationships, and these relationships, in turn lead us into further healing. However, there is a vicious cycle that can take its place if we let it, where our fear and pain leads us into isolation, which deepens the pain. May we become those who work to restore others wherever we can, and who build safe, healing relationships in order to restore and heal others and ourselves.
There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood
Just As I Am
It Is Well With My Soul
In Your Mercy, Lord
Give Thanks (Link to YouTube video)
Blessed Be Your Name (Link to YouTube video)
White Ribbon Day (Link to YouTube video)
A Liturgy for the Agape