Every now and then I am reminded by somebody that God always offers us a fresh start, a clean sheet, a new day, sometimes because like many I find it almost impossible to free myself from regrets and recriminations I find this offer of a fresh start hard to grasp hold of. Yet the message of the cross is that of a fresh start, of sins forgiven and grace extended, and today I find a deep comfort in that.
I am reflecting on two contrasting news items first the terrible tragedy of the murder in Woolwich, as the story unfold it seems likely that this was a terrorist attack or at least driven by some form of misguided religious or racial fervour. Who can truly get inside the head of those who would carry out such an atrocity. It has been heartening to see people from a number of groups including the Islamic Society of Britain speaking out against it and offering condolences to the family and friends of the victim. The flip side if that has been an outpouring of racist rhetoric fueled by social media some of which has been truly shocking.
Contrast that then with reports of the Pope's latest offering, urging people to see and to celebrate the good in one another, suggesting that salvation is possible for all of those who do good because within that good there is a reflection of the heart of God. Quoting Jesus from Marks gospel he says that none should be hindered from doing good, and that we should seek to work together for good with people of all faiths and none. Working together for good demolishes the barriers that racial and religious intolerance erect.
Yet seeking good is not easy, it is not easy either on a global, national or community level, nor within our own personal lives, and this is because we are broken, flawed and even damaged people. What we need more than anything else is to be healed and to become or begin to become whole, and that brings me back to the comfort I find at the foot of the cross. I love the way that contemporary novelist Douglas Coupland states his need in his novel Life After God:
"My secret is that I need God--that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem to be capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.”
On a personal level I know that this is true for me, I need God, I cannot live this life alone and in my own strength, I am not able to be what I can be without God's grace and forgiveness at work in my life. This has been brought home to me through a series of events over the last year, I have had to face up to my own brokenness in a big way, and the miracle is that God's grace is sufficient for me, he becomes the strength in my weakness!
Today I find myself faced with a choice, I can choose to look back, to live a life filled with regrets and recriminations or I can choose to bring all of my hurts and pains, all of my brokenness to the cross, where in Christ God gave himself for the world, pouring out healing and grace. I can choose to live in the past where I wallow in a sea of if only's', or I can choose to celebrate what has been good (and there has been plenty of that), and to seek forgiveness and healing for the bad and the broken. I choose the later. Today is a new day, I step into it not in my own strength but in the power of the Spirit and in the light of. Jesus resurrection from the dead, for it is through this that the power and grip of death and and all that separates us from God's love has been defeated.
Today I choose life, and that choice brings to me the offer of a fresh start, a clean sheet, a new day, I choose life and I seek the healing and grace to step into it. I do not want to be closed and bitter and angry, I want to be open and loving and free, more than that I want to be forgiving and to seek forgiveness, to accept it where it is offered and to pray for strength where it is not.
None of this is easy but it is possible and for me all the more possible because I know the one in whose company I make this step, his invitation is clear:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
The choice is there for us all, whether that choice is in response to a personal, local or global event or issue, today can be a new day, and as we step into it we begin to make a difference, and that difference could be more far reaching than we could ever hope or imagine.