Sunday, June 5, 2011
“Whole” I Thessalonians 5:23-25 NIV and the Message June 5, 2011
My favorite toy when I was small was my big metal yellow Tonka truck. I loved it because it was indestructible. Recently I saw a version of it on sell on E-bay for $60. A fully restored one of that era now goes for several hundred dollars. I have learned that the selling of restored toys and other items from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s is big business. It seems that my generation is buying up items that remind them of their childhood. I think that part of the reason is that people are looking for something that pulls them back to another time in their life - a time before they experienced the twists and turns of life - time when they felt full of hope and optimism – a time before they felt broken.
If we listen to someone’s life story long enough we can hear their stories of brokenness. You hear it when they begin a sentence with “I wish I would have….”or “I wish I could have….”or “I had always hoped to….”or “I always thought we would…” The stories that follow are filled with tales of broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken homes, broken families, broken relationships, broken careers, broken bodies and broken souls. These stories are rife with sadness, frustration, disappointment and regret.
We know that we were not created for brokenness so we try to make ourselves whole. We hope if we find the right person, have a baby, make a strategic career move, or buy a new home or car we will feel something – we will feel right – we will feel fulfilled. Then, when we find ourselves with everything we thought would make it right, but still feeling broken, and it shakes us to our core.
Our spiritual yearning was right. We are not created for brokenness – we were created to be whole. But it is not about buying something else, loving someone else, or becoming someone new. It is about letting God work in our lives and becoming who we were created to be.
Earlier we heard Armando Pena read our focal passage to us using the New International Version. Now I want you to hear the same passage through the lenses of Eugene Peterson’s interpretative translations, The Message. Hear his take on I Thessalonians 5:23-25. It reads; May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together-spirit, soul, and body-and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!
Paul wanted the hearers of this passage to understand that wholeness begins with an act of God. He tells them that it is God who makes everything holy and whole that will make them holy and whole. When we hear the story of Naaman in 2 Kings, we hear he goes to the prophet Elisha to be asked to be healed from his leprosy, the prophet tells him to dip himself in the Jordan River and that “your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” The prophet wanted him to understand that the healing God would bring would not only change his skin condition, but would change his heart as well. We hear this same theme resounding in the healing stories of Jesus. It is God’s desire that we know the power of restoration and redemption. The redemption means that we are forgiven – we are made holy – we are made whole by God. In Isaiah 44:22 we hear God declare; “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” We hear in I Peter 1; For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. God knows what we have done and what has been done to us and makes the way to redeem us and make us whole.
This redemption is intended to be complete – reaching into the depths of who we are and restores us to who we were created to be. Paul writes that the God who makes us holy and whole, will put you together-spirit, soul, and body. So often we talk about God’s restoring and redeeming us spiritually. But Paul speaks about God restoring every part of our lives – spirit, soul, and body. This is a wholeness that ripples across every aspect of our lives – our hopes and dreams, our way and our work, our relationships with one another and our relationship with God. But often we create boundaries in our relationship with God. We hold back part of lives from God. We hesitate trusting God with our careers, our resources, and our relationships. We want God to live and work in the religious domain, but we retain complete control of the rest of our lives. Then we wonder why we live in brokenness. God’s redemptive work in our lives is intended to be comprehensive, putting us together – making us holy and whole in every aspect of our lives. But this means we need to let go of our hands on the controls and truly trust God to lead and work in every aspect of our lives. It means that we turn over our relationships, our marriages, our families, our careers, and our future into God’s hands. It is not laying these things at the feet of God in times of crisis and then taking them back up – claiming them again as our own as soon as the way seems clear. It is about laying them at the feet of God and trusting God with them forever. This act of trust openness us to God’s great restoring and redeeming work. Our old ways and our old patterns are not good enough. The only way to know what it is to be holy and whole is to give ourselves wholly to God.
The promise is not pop psychology intended to make you feel better for a moment. It is an invitation to wholeness that is promised and purposeful. Paul writes that we are being put together – spirit, soul and body for the coming of Jesus Christ. News channels were filled for weeks with stories about a fringe pastor’s prediction of the Second Coming. Some sold everything to get ready. May 21st came and went and nothing happened. Some outside the Christian community laughed with scorn. This false prophet’s pathetic prediction casted a shadow of doubt on the legitimate people of faith. I will have to tell you that I did not worry about what was going to happen on May 21st because Jesus told us that we would know not the day nor the hour, so I assume if someone predicts a specific day and hour I can be pretty confident that this is not the moment. Paul was not talking about God making us whole for the future Kingdom of God. Instead it is about being put together –spirit, soul, and body to live as the people who live between the first coming of Christ that changed everything now – and the second coming that will change everything forever. It is about authentically and wholly living as the people of God in this moment and in this place. It wraps our hopes and dreams into the will of God, not our own.
So can we actually believe that our broken lives can be made whole by God? Paul answers an unequivocal “Yes!” We hear pronounce with passion, The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it! We can trust God, who knows everything about us, to redeem us – to restore us – and make us whole. It is time to let go of our brokenness and lay it at the feet of God. You do not have to feel broken any longer. Nothing else and no one else can do it for you. You do not have to be filled with regret a moment longer. God is ready to put your heart and your soul together again. God is ready to redeem and restore you – to make you holy and whole.