Restoration: A Bible Study for a New Year
(December 26 & 27)
by Rev. Lee Johnson
december 26, 2020
Kansas City has been called “the city of fountains.” All told, 48 publically owned fountains can be found within the city limits of KCMO. One of the most well-known sits in the middle of a traffic circle at Meyer Boulevard and Ward Parkway. Built in 1925, the fountain features three 18th-century Italian seahorse sculptures. Three times, the fountain has undergone major repair and reconstruction, most recently from 2015-17. Following one such re-construction in 1991, the retaining wall surrounding the fountain was strengthened and raised. However, the height of the wall made it difficult for those driving past to see the fountain. Following public complaints, the Parks and Recreation Department restored the wall to its original design. If you have driven by the fountain at Meyers Circle, and admired its beauty, imagine not being able to see it. It is no wonder residents complained. Would you have signed a petition calling upon the city to restore the wall to its original design?
God, the ultimate architect and designer, is forever trying to restore creation to its “original design.” Much of scripture, Old and New Testament, accounts for this activity. It is as though a large wall surrounds God’s creative work, hiding its beauty. So, God reaches in and goes to work. In the Old Testament, God uses the experience of “exile” to restore the Hebrew people to relationship with each other and God, or as Isaiah 61.3 promises, “to give them a garland instead of ashes.” Christmas, then, reflects some of God’s best work of restoration. Coming as a child, God takes human form in Jesus using a gift called love to chip away at the wall so the beauty of God’s original design might be more visible. The world is then invited to “love as Jesus loved, to love as God first loved” and so more clearly reveal what the ultimate designer had in mind from the first day of creation. Yet, circumstance and individual choice – better known as free will – can too often “raise the wall.” That Christmas comes again this year, affirms God does not give up on God’s artistic endeavor. Sometimes, on the other side of restoration, the end result is not just renewed and restored, but it is better. I remember, many years ago, having to move on from a work setting, thinking life would never be the same, the wall had grown high. Surprisingly, after a few years, life was better. Have you ever experienced this kind of restoration? If so, might it be the handiwork of God?
There’s a lot to restore when it comes to 2020, and the wall has grown taller: COVID, job loss, unprecedented loss of life, and resources. Just last week a friend of mine was celebrating his 91st birthday. Days later, he and his wife were diagnosed with COVID. “How are you doing?” I asked when I called Sunday night. “I lay in bed and worry,” his wife said. That’s it, worry and fear and loss raise the wall. And, before long, the beauty of God’s work is hidden. I doubt God intends for us to live this way. And so, along comes Christmas, a vivid reminder of God’s comforting and restorative love. Sure, things might never be the same. But, there is the promise that in God’s eternal time, things will be better. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to hear that promise, let alone believe in it. Christmas comes with the gift of love, to move us all towards the promise – you know, a garland instead of ashes. This weekend in worship, we hear the story of the Three Wise Men who followed a star to behold the promise. I find it interesting, some say that same Christmas Star was in the night sky this past week. I looked, it was. Coincidence? Or, a reminder of God’s work of restoration. What in your life needs the work of God’s restoration?
Isaiah 61:1-4; Matthew 2:1-12
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Saturday, December 26 at 5:00 pm
"A garland instead of ashes."