Based on the set readings for April 18 (Revised Common Lectionary) shared by many churches and chapels.
OT: Zephaniah 3:14-20 — A word of hope: the Lord has taken away the punishment and promised to be with us.
NT gospel: Luke 24:36-49 — Jesus encourages the disciples and reveals to them how what has happened is all in the Scriptures
NT narrative: Acts 3:11-19 — Peter says faith in the living, healing Jesus has healed the crippled man and calls hearers to repent
NT letter: 1 John 3:1-7 — We believers should know we are children of God with the freedom to choose to live for Him
GOD IS the Creator who — by definition — is creative. Creative people are restless, always trying to find a new way or a new effect.
Another way of being highly creative is the restoration of what has become tired or broken to its former glory.
More than six million people tune in to BBC The Repair Shop where a heart warming friendly team of expert crafts people take on projects, often with deep emotional ties or special memories, and bring them back to life by sensitive renewing of what has perished, attention to intricate mechanisms and of course renewing the appearance of surfaces dulled by time and wear.
This has resonances with God’s work among His people and now, in His church. He is always about renewal and restoration. A PCC or Chapel Committee that seeks to maintain what has been for those who have loved the tradition, may find itself working against God rather than with Him.
He is always doing a new thing, Isaiah 43:19.
OT: Zephaniah’s picture of praise
Our first picture of restoration and renewal comes from the prophet Zephaniah. He writes about God’s people who experienced God’s judgmentb being exiled in subjection to pagan people far away. But now Zephaniah sees a new time and context: a time of gathering and return, a time of God’s favour, particularly for those who had known the bullying of the ruling cartel:
“At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home. I will give you honour and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes,” says the Lord.Zeph. 3:20
This is a time to be encouraged, to share the good news:
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over them with singing.Zeph. 3:17
Luke 24: Jesus appears in a renewed resurrection body
The next picture of restoration and renewal comes from Luke’s gospel account of Jesus’ appearance to the disciple on the evening of the day He was resurrected. A busy day with an open, unguarded and empty tomb, some brief encounters near by, the two disciples who are walking out of town towards Emmaus when they are joined by a stranger — a rather knowledgeable stranger. They are still in shock over the events of the past few days but the stranger explains how everything that happened. And then, that evening, the larger group of disciples were together when Jesus suddenly appeared. They thought at first they were seeing as ghost, but He encouraged them to grasp hold of Him asnd know that He had flesh and bones.
He showed them His hands and His feet, And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement. He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence.Luke 24:41-43
Jesus had been resurrected with a renewed body, recognisably His from the scars. He had been dead but now was gloriously restored.
Acts 3: Peter’s ministry and message
Now the scene shifts to one of the long colonnades enclosing the temple outer court where a crowd had gathered. A disabled man who was well known by sight to the many who passed through the eastern gate was leaping and shouting — and fully able to walk. He had been disabled from birth.
Peter addresses the crowd and explains that it is faith in Jesus that has healed this man.
Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk…Acts 3:12,16
…By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
This was the gift of faith, brought by the Holy Spirit, and working principally through Peter.
- The healing ministry of Jesus had been restored.
- The faith and courage of Peter had been restored.
- And the advance of the kingdom of God has been restored.
The priests and the captain of the temple guard… seized Peter and John and… put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed, so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.Acts 4:1 and 3-4
The church which numbered three thousand at Pentecost grew to around five thousand at this time, helped by many who heard Peter’s message, believed and wanted to be part of this move of God.
Peter’s message, explaining the miraculous healing, was forthright about his fellow Jews having been complicit in Jesus’ murder, but it ended on a note of renewal and an appealk to turn to God for forgiveness and new life:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.Acts 3:19
To the extent that the guilt and wicked intentions remained, the Jewish nation could not move on in its relationship with God. But to the extent that people chose to repent and honour Jesus for who He is, the spiritual refreshing promised by the prophets would continue to touch lives and change them.
The final picture of restoration comes from John’s hand, writing to encourage Christians in the new churches.And here he makes a profound statement:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called childsren of God! And t hat is what we are!1 John 3:1, 3
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
This is a way of describing the renewal by the Holy Spirit that happens when we are born again by trusting Jesus and filled with His Spirit in Spirit baptism.It is a restoration of fellowship with Jesus and with the Father, a restoration of what was lost in the Garden of Eden. And it is a renewal of soul – how we think of ourselves, our feelings.
We cannot over-estimate the significance of discovering that heaven sees us as God’s heirs and precious children, being brought up in His love and protection.
- It makes a difference to how we live: full of hope
- It makes a difference to how we say ‘no’ to temptation and deception: robustly
- It makes a big difference to how we pray: confidently agreeing with God, discerning His kingdom purpose.
This is restoration — restoring us to the fellowship God our Father desires, and the partnership which He can use to reach others.
God is the Creator of all things and, through Jesus, the Restorer of sinful man — to the extent that we let Him.