Monday, August 25, 2008

Running from the past: Breakfast with Jesus VIII

An Easter sermon from John 21: part VIII
3. Facing Failure
And this forgiveness, this re-commissioning, is also for us today. Today of all days, we celebrate the God who can bring a new start out of a deadly end. But Jesus’ resurrection didn’t mean the undoing of his death. He was not de-crucified. He still bore the scars. It was not as though that part of his past was simply erased by God and replaced with something else. No, God creatively made something new out of the old, even where the old was dead and buried. God is a renovator, not a demolisher.

And so, if we are running from our past, if we feel we need to sweep it under the carpet, if our bridges feel burned and we think it would be better to write off a bad debt and start again as though it never happened, then we need to listen again to Simon Peter and Jesus.

If I simply hide or repress my past, I am not free of it. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. “When we see societies losing or suppressing their past, we rightly conclude that they are unfree, diseased, or corrupt” (Williams, Resurrection, 24). So it is with us. The goal is not to live as though failure never happened. We must face our failures.

Jesus doesn’t erase our past. God doesn’t un-make, he re-makes. Our past is not obliterated. Instead, it is from these very patterns of brokenness and failure that the first signs of true humanity arise; we abandon the fantasy in which we simply shed our history and memory and instead accept that we are to be re-made where we are. The start of this new creation may well be a right remembering of the very patterns that have not miraculously disappeared. To remember rightly includes awareness of our failures and that in Christ we are unconditionally accepted and forgiven by God. Unless I own my history as my history, there is no hope that forgiveness will function not only backwards in absolution but also forwards in transformation. To recognise both my poverty and God’s grace is to receive an invitation, a summons, into a richer life of what relations with God and others can and should be.
Series: I; II: III; IV; V; VI; VII; VIII; IX.