Sunday, September 7, 2008

We are not Junk, We Just Need to be Restored

When Presbytera and I were preparing to move from Denver to Boston we had several garage sales to get rid of some stuff we had collected over the years. We had too much stuff that would never have fit in the small campus apartment which we would call home over the next four years. Garage sales are an interesting thing. At a garage sale everything is for sale – old or new – and for the right price a smart buyer can find a few prizes. If you’ve ever seen Antiques Road Show you know many very valuable items have been bought at garage sales. Some shoppers spend every weekend going from sale to sale looking for lost treasure. When they spot it they know, under all that dust and dirt and wear and tear is something that looks to us like an old, broken, dirty, worthless piece of trash but it is a treasurer to someone who knows it’s true worth. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, the buyer knows it’s worth saving.

Do you know what is worth saving my dear brothers and sisters? Just like at a garage sale, some may see it as dirty, broken, used, outdated, a burden, and unwanted. We may even see it as completely worthless and definitely not worth saving, but it is. The Gospel lesson this morning tells us that God sent His only Son just to save it. Our life, my dear brothers and sisters, no matter what we may think about it is worth saving to God. That is the good news, the fantastic news, the life-saving news of this morning’s Gospel Lesson.

“For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3.16) This is possibly the most famous of all bible quotes. We see it in football games and protests of all sorts. There is always someone reminding us that God loves us. To borrow a phrase from Billy Joel, God loves us just the way we are, and He takes us just the way we are. God loves us in all of our brokenness, all of our dirt, all of our burden; God loves no matter what others may think and no matter what we look like. He loves us so much He gave the supreme gift – Himself.

The Gospel continues, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3.17) Imagine God stopping at the largest garage sale on Earth – everything is for sale – and He looks at each one of us. He sees the beauty that is in us. He sees the value we have when others have cast us aside. He sees the goodness that is in each of us. He knows what we are worth. He knows we are worth saving.

God picks us up, cleans us, repairs us, restores us to our full glory, and then sends us back into the world to live as His children. When we believe that Jesus, as God, took on flesh, lived among us, was crucified and died as God, and was buried and rose from the dead as God and as man, we will live forever as His children.

God picks you up my dear brothers and sisters, you and me together and repairs us. Yes, He takes us the way we are today:

No matter where we were born
No matter if we are male or female
No matter what we have done in the past
No matter whom we have married
No matter if we have been Orthodox all our life or we have just embraced Orthodoxy
No matter if we have a job or not
No matter if we have a house or if we are living in our car
No matter if our parents built this Church
No matter if we built this Church or if we just moved to Florence

No matter who we are or who we have been God loves us and accepts us and has the power to repair us IF we believe. The Gospel continues, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3.18) Do you believe in Him? Do you want to be saved? Then allow Him to pick you up and bring you back to your original glory. Each of us was created in the image of God. When we sin, as we have spoken of before, we fall short of the glory of God. When we believe in Him and we allow Him to take us, we are restored.

We are restored as members of the Body of Christ as the Church. We are restored and we are given “the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1.11-13) It is the will of God that all people are saved. The Gospel this morning reminds us about Moses and the Old Testament. As Moses was sent to save the Jews, Jesus was sent to save the entire world – Greeks, Jews, Americans, Indians, Russians, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, poor, rich, employed, unemployed, men, women – all who believe in Him.

Fifty years ago this Church was established as a place where Greeks could worship God in their own tradition. For nearly fifty years this Church has stood as a beacon of hope for Greeks and others who felt lost. We are the body of Christ and our mission is to save the world. As the Church honors the work of Moses in the Old Testament, we must honor the work of our fore fathers here in Florence for building this beautiful Church so that could be here today. We must honor the memory of our founders who have set this community on a firm foundation for the Glory of God.

As Christ came and built upon the work of Moses, we must build upon the work of our founding members. We must bring Orthodoxy to Florence so everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, can believe in Jesus Christ and be restored. We must look forward to the next fifty years my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, building upon the foundation of our fore-fathers, and declare to the entire city of Florence, “Jesus Christ is God and our Lord and we can all be restored and healed.”

My brothers and sisters, Jesus Himself could go the garage sales of Florence looking for lost treasure but He has appointed us, His Church, to go and search for those who feel neglected, cast aside, dirty and broken, and invite them to be restored by Jesus Christ. He depends upon us to see the beauty that is beneath layers of abuse or sin of our fellow human beings and pick them up and bring them to God to be cleaned and restored so they too can become children of God.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

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