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A new direction

How will things ever change? There can be times we find ourselves feeling completely out of hope. “Beyond saving”- that is something I have heard at times from people who have felt so very lost. As the days grow shorter and there is less sunshine, as pressure and expectations build up for “happy holidays” there can often be an underlying sense of despair. This weekend we hear John the Baptist cry out from the wilderness for repentance. To bear fruit fitting, in balance with changed lives.

The Greek word for repentance is metanoia- to change the mind, to be changed inside. Sometimes we talk of repentance as a changing of one’s ways, a change of heart. We are called to listen to something different and at times the opposite of what we hear around us or in our heads. That we are what we own, what we do, what we wear. The lies that motivate us to be ever seeking power over others, consuming more hoping it will fill the inner emptiness. Repent.

Change your mind, change your life John the Baptist calls. Yet we often are so clear that as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15, "I do not do the very thing I want I do the very thing I hate.". Paul puts words to our inner conflict. In times when change seems so far away, impossible, incomprehensible we get to trust God is more powerful than our doubts, despair and fears. The song in the video above was recently sung at the high school retreat at Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp. There was a sense of calm, quiet, God’s love and presence as we sung it over and over.

Often in a song we can feel love and God’s presence. In times of despair, weariness, overwhelm to be able to trust God is with us in the depth of our darkness can be a great comfort. It also brought to mind for me- the change of heart and the change of direction we are called to as Jesus’ followers- is a both/and of God calling and inspiring us and our response. God walks alongside us and calls us to lean in on God’s strength and power. Repentance includes a willingness to allow for God’s will among us.

God’s will that we love with our whole heart, mind, body, soul both God and all God’s children for this God will give to us the strength, the direction, the power as we place our whole selves into God's care. The call to live this way and our response is repentance that is shown by our actions. To be willing to be a follower and not need to be large and in charge is often a challenge to our human condition of wanting to have it our way or the highway.

The despair, the darkness, the sadness can tempt us to think nothing can or will ever change. The not wanting to think about any of this, checking out on caring, numbing ourselves when there is pain… lies that tell us that if we ignore something long enough it will go away. . Into the variety of challenges we have we hear the call of John the Baptist to change our minds, to allow God to change us from the inside out- to be set forward in a new direction.

Below are the lyrics from that song “Beautiful Things”. This first full week in Advent may it speak to you of how God finds us and calls to us in our confusion, uncertainty, and pain. God calls to us when we want to be the ones in charge. God calls to us in our doubt and numbness, in our checking out and shutting down. God calls to us to return to this God who loves us beyond measure and sits with us in the darkness God calls to us when we want to believe we are beyond God’s saving.

The power of God makes new things out of what we think is beyond hope, impossible, wasted or dust. May this song and these words be hope-filled for you in Advent.

All this pain

I wonder if I'll ever find my way

I wonder if my life could really change, at all

All this earth

Could all that is lost ever be found?

Could a garden come out from this ground, at all?

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

All around,

Hope is springing up from this old ground

Out of chaos life is being found, in you

You make me new,

You are making me new

You make me new,

You are making me new

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