I spent a beautiful Friday afternoon on my knees staining the parsonage deck. While I don’t mind spending time on my knees, and I don’t really mind painting, this job had been put off for over a year. I just never quite got around to it, if you know what I mean. There was always something a little more important to do.
So when I finally decided that “today was the day” to get the deck done, it wasn’t a decision I made with anticipation and excitement but with an “ok, let’s get it over with” attitude.
Now don’t get me wrong, the back deck at the parsonage looks great. There is nothing quite like a paint job to spruce things up and transform what appears to be a worn out deck into a refreshing, relaxing retreat area on a beautiful fall evening. Even more importantly, a new coat of stain will protect the decking for years to come from the weather extremes that can lead to rotting and other damage.
Maybe you can relate. There are all kinds of things we approach with an “Ok, let’s get it over with!” attitude… Sometimes, it is that attitude that we bring to family time, other times we bring it to the workplace, occasionally we may even bring it to church.
It isn’t that we mind spending time on our knees, or even spending time with God… but are we coming before God with anticipation and excitement or an “Ok, let’s get it over with!” attitude?
Do you remember when Ezra says: “For we are slaves; yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to give us new life to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:9)
Ezra suffered the deep sense of emergency, he was overwhelmed by Israel’s sin, and their disregard for God’s displeasure in it. When God had begun to show Israel forgiveness, instead of rejoicing, they sinned even more.
Like a newly painted porch, it is possible for us to cover our sin so that we look fresh and new but like the old wood underneath, our sin is still there covered, hidden. We may look good on the outside but we are just as battered and worn and ugly as before. Slaves, if you will, to sin and death.
But God, in his steadfast love, does not forsake us. God, in his infinite wisdom, doesn’t simply cover our sin, he forgives it. Ezra reminds us that God “repairs our ruins.” With the help of divine grace, our lives are rebuilt when we repent and the fruits of our repentance are apparent to all.
I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing.
I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it?
I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.
I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.
Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.
– Psalm 101:1-4