Second Chances

Listen:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

[Jeremiah 31:31-34]

12-02-chagall-jeremiah

Prophet Jeremiah, Marc Chagall, 1968; Saint-paul-de-vence, France.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and the people of Judah.” These words open a passage from Jeremiah that speaks of a new beginning, based on a renewed promise from God.

This scripture speaks to me because it seems today we live in a world of zero tolerance for so many things. I’ve watched my son grow up surrounded by the theme in school and sports. There is no room for error. Mistakes or flaws are not allowed if you want to be on the team or go to a “good” school. Once you are there, any mistake or infraction, no matter how small, will cost you dearly.

Beset by relentless demands for perfection, how do we endure or find any hope? God’s promise is the answer without fail. These words in Jeremiah speak of a new covenant to a people who have repeatedly squandered many chances, yet God is willing to give them another and completely wipe the slate clean.

What a gift – to be freed from any past mistakes and allowed to start fresh! It sounds too good to be true or something that only happens in the Bible, but it can be real for us, as I’ve witnessed in my own family.

My younger brother and I were raised in a loving, Christian home, where church was what we did every Sunday. Our father was an elder and we were active in the church school and youth group. Sadly, when my brother became an adult, he turned his back on church and religion. He was talented and independent and had no used for that “church stuff,” as he put it.

Over the years success for him came and went, as well as a brief, failed marriage. During one of his unemployed periods, I hired him to finish my basement. He lived with me for several months, while he completed the job, and occasionally came to church with the family. He was captivated by the preaching of our pastors and the warm sense of community at Westminster Presbyterian Church. He was also intrigued by a report from one of our adult mission trips.

When he returned home, he began attending church again and volunteered to be a carpenter for a mission trip to Honduras. He has since made two more of those trips.  Last year, after much prayer and research, my brother, at the age of 54, enrolled in seminary. The work has been challenging and he’s not sure where it will take him, but he is fully committed to the journey.  He speaks now of God’s limitless love and forgiveness in his life.

Who are we to say there are no second chances? Each year, in this advent season, God reminds us of his promise. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Our hope lives in Him and through Him as we anticipate and celebrate the coming of His Son.

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