Sunday, 25 December 2016

the ordinary Christmas

I'm actually someone who really loves everything about this time of year. I love the decorations, even the cheesy ones. I love the lights and the music. I love the snow on the ground and just that general Christmassy feeling. However, in the midst of all the lights and decorations we can miss how ordinary that first Christmas actually was.

There was nothing special about when Jesus was born. Luke's biography of Jesus tells us that Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem because of a census that was being done by the Roman government. Nothing special was happening. It was just a bit of politics that I’m sure everyone was grumbling about. Imagine the Canadian government told everyone to return to the place of their birth for a particular day so they could count the citizens and figure out a calculation for taxes. That doesn’t sound like particularly holy timing for the birth of the Messiah.

Now if I was in charge, Jesus would have been born on Yom Kippur, which was the highest holy day in the Jewish year- the Day of Atonement. … Imagine, Joseph and Mary travel to Jerusalem for Yom Kippur. They stay with friends in Bethlehem, and then they can't make it to the temple services because Jesus (the one who will bring atonement- at-one-ment between us and God) is born just as the High priest is conducting the most holy ceremony on the Day of Atonement. But he wasn't, he was born on an ordinary day. The kind of day where you buy your groceries, go to work, clean the house, play with your kids, and have coffee with friends. That's the kind of day Jesus was born on.

Jesus was also born to an ordinary couple. He wasn't born to a king and queen. Or to a high priest and his wife. Mary was a young woman- a good Jewish girl. Joseph was a carpenter. Sure he has some royal blood, being from the family of King David. But perhaps that was relatively common in people whose families were from Bethlehem, the city of King David. Jesus was born to an ordinary couple. We wouldn't be able to pick them out of a crowd.

Jesus was born in an ordinary way. He wasn't transported down from heaven in a glowing beam of light. He was born… and there was pain, and pushing, and blood, and crying, and then hugging, and feeding, and then tears of joy when they realize he's healthy and that Mary will be okay. Jesus was born the way human babies are born.

Jesus was born in an ordinary kind of place. He wasn't born in a palace. He wasn't born in the temple. He wasn't born on Mt. Sinai where Moses received the law. … There is a long tradition about Jesus being born in a stable, but he was probably born in a one room home. There was no room for them in the guest room so they were welcomed to stay with the family in the one room where they lived. The animals had a space at the back of that room where they would stay at night. The family room would often have either a wooden manger or a dug out bowl in the floor which would be used to feed animals. Jesus was born in a place where people lived their lives- where they cooked, cleaned, ate, slept, and lived everyday life with those they loved. Jesus was born and swaddled and they placed him in an ordinary manger, a kind of feeding trough for the animals. The place of his birth was pretty ordinary.

There is a lot that is ordinary about the birth of Jesus. … But, there are some parts about his birth that are extraordinary. For one, there are angels. Angels are heavenly beings that are often messengers of heaven. Angels appear to tell about the birth of Jesus. … But who do they tell? The angels did not appear to the Roman Emperor. The angels didn't appear to King Herod. The angels didn't appear to the High Priest of the Temple. Who did the Angels appear to? Luke says (Lk 2:8-14),
"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”"

This amazing angelic visitation was to shepherds - ordinary, bottom of the social ladder, run of the mill, shepherds.

We have this strange pairing of the ordinary and the extraordinary. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary pregnancy. Ordinary shepherds are visited by extraordinary angelic beings. This extraordinary child who is called Jesus (which means God Saves), and Immanuel (which means God-with-us), savior, and Lord- this extraordinary child is born, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary home, to an ordinary couple, and placed in an ordinary straw-filled manger used to feed ordinary animals. … Most people in Bethlehem went on with their day unaware that anything special happened.

And, I think that is how God wanted it. That is how God planned it. Because God works through the ordinary. That's what the incarnation is about- God working in the ordinary. "The Incarnation" is really just a big word for what the author C.S. Lewis described as “the author writing himself into the script of the play". Through the ordinary events of life- through the play that is life- God brings it about that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem belonging to the family of King David- just as the prophets foretold about the expected Messiah. God worked in the ordinary to bring about the extraordinary. God wrote himself into the play.

Jesus, the Son of God, (and mysteriously, God Himself,) lived as one of us. An ordinary life. He scraped his knee as a boy. He had friends and played. He learned from his parents. He grew up to be a carpenter like his father. … He didn't start his public preaching ministry until he was 30. Most of Jesus' life was lived in an ordinary way. That is what the incarnation is about- God enters the everyday ordinary-ness of human life as one of us. … That is what God wanted.

The teachings Jesus gave us were for how to live our ordinary lives in an extraordinary way. He didn’t just come to be our savior to bring us to heaven when we die. He came to teach us how to live in a heavenly way right here and now. That is what it means to follow Jesus. That is what it means to be a Christian- to learn to live everyday filled with God’s love. Allowing God to once again take on flesh through us- to act through us- to love through us. Jesus came to save us, yes, but he also came to show what it means to live saved lives. Through our ordinary lives God will bring about the extraordinary.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Advent 4- get uncomfortable if you want to join God

The stores are packed with everything you need to have the perfect Christmas. The variety is staggering- shelves and shelves of evergreen branches, Santa statues, and lights for your house. For those of us with fake Christmas trees they even sell a real Christmas tree smell, so you can feel like you have a real tree. The stores ring with Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby singing Christmas songs. The magazines on the stand boast perfect holiday dishes and decorations. Then there are the toys! Nearly life-size Darth Vader action figures, and dolls of every imaginable variety. Even the pet aisle is celebrating the holidays.

While some are planning the perfect Christmas experience, others are finding it difficult to get in the spirit. Some have experienced a death that the holidays seem to highlight with an empty chair at the table. Some are dealing with family problems that just never seem to get better. Some don’t even really know why they aren’t into it, they just aren’t feeling much cheer. They feel out of step with what is going on around them. Everyone is planning a perfect holiday and their lives feel so far from perfect they don’t even want to try.

The first Christmas was more of the out of step variety. God often seems to move out of step with the usual social expectations. Things would go a lot smoother if it was the High Priest’s wife the angel had come to visit with news about being pregnant with the messiah. She would have already been married and they could avoid that awkward pregnant and not married thing. Joseph wouldn’t have to struggle with what to do with his pregnant fiancĂ©. Of course he knew it wasn’t his. Why should he raise another man’s child? Why should he take on another man’s responsibility? No, better to dismiss her quietly. But, he doesn’t want her to get hurt- he doesn’t want her to get stoned for fornication. But, It’s not fair that he should have to marry her. What would people think? They would think he was the fornicator- messing around before being married. No, best to do this quietly- as best you can in a small town. And this story about an angel, c’mon, really? That’s the story she wants to go with?

The whole thing is absolutely scandalous. Better to just distance himself from the whole thing. It’s not decent. It’s not the life he had planned for himself. I would imagine that is how things would have looked for Joseph.

Of course that’s how God seems to work. God interrupts our comfortable lives, and turns our expectations upside down. When the angel comes to Mary and tells her she will Have God’s son she sings a song that includes the lines, 
“he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53).
 The normal order of things is upset. God disturbs our comfortable social expectations. If we expect God to move in our lives, then we should expect to be made uncomfortable. We should expect our usual ways of being to be disturbed. We should perhaps even expect scandal.

Joseph could have dismissed Mary and gone on with his life- a life in keeping with the social norms of his community- a life that didn’t rock the boat. He could have went on to have a family and apply his trade to support them. Instead Joseph is thrown into scandal. Shortly after the child is born he even has to become a refugee and flee to Egypt. This is not the plan he made for himself.

I think we can be a lot like Joseph, when he wants to dismiss Mary. We want to go about our business. We want to accomplish our modest goals and not cause too much trouble. We want to be good people. We want to avoid having too much drama in our lives if at all possible. We want to be comfortable. Most of us don’t feel the need to be famous, or to strive to be billionaires. We just want enough that we don’t have to worry about it and can have a few nice things. We want family and friends that are healthy, and work that keeps our interest without being overwhelming. That’s what most of us want. I think we can understand Joseph wanting to dismiss Mary quietly, can’t we?

But imagine what he would have missed? Joseph would have missed his calling. He would have missed his call to be a father to the Messiah. He would have missed out on the heroic task of keeping him and his mother safe. He would have missed teaching Jesus how to be a man. He would have missed playing an incredible part of God’s story in our world. Joseph could have missed out.

Is it possible that we miss out when we decide to keep our lives normal, according to plan, according to social expectation? When we choose to not have our comfortable lives disturbed is it possible that we are missing out on what God is doing right in front of us? Is it possible that we are missing our calling because we have chosen comfort instead? That part of our life that we want to just go away, is it possible that that is exactly where God is trying to speak to us?

Joseph found that sometimes being faithful meant being at odds with society. It was in those unusual circumstances that Joseph saw God working in his life. Joseph stayed faithful to Mary even though society made him feel that he should walk away from her. It was in violating convention that Joseph found himself in God’s will. God often seems to work in the unexpected. He works in the interruption.

Joseph took a chance. He had a dream where an angel spoke to him and told him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife (1:20). It was fear that was holding him back- fear of what people might say- fear of his life being disturbed- fear of his life not going according to his plan- fear that Mary was lying about the angel and her pregnancy. Joseph decided not to allow that fear to lead him. Instead he chose to follow the dream that strangely spoke about a baby that would save people- with no clue about how that was supposed to happen. He wasn’t given a map of where they were going. He was just asked to walk through a door with only a vague idea of what would happen after that. He was off his map, but he walked onto God’s map.

Many of us live our lives wondering where God is and what God is doing. Maybe… just maybe… God has been trying to interrupt our lives. Maybe he has come to us as the irritating interruption, or the inconvenient neighbour. Maybe he comes to us, but answering Him means deviating from the plan we have drawn up for ourselves. What if we are left wondering where God is and what God is doing because we have been expecting God to work with our plans and in the convenience of our lives? Maybe we miss out on what God is doing when we aren’t willing to be interrupted, and maybe that leaves us with a sense of distance from God.

The poet David Whyte has a poem called The True Love where he says, the call “will not come so grandly, so Biblically, but more subtly and intimately, in the face of the one you know you have to love.”[1] Perhaps as we prepare for the perfect Christmas we can make ourselves ready to be interrupted- confronted- by “the face of the one [we] know [we] have to love”. Perhaps as we rush from one thing to the next we can notice God trying to speak to us in some unusual way- some inconvenient way- calling us off our own map and onto His. Perhaps we can allow ourselves to not allow the fear to decide for us. Maybe we can become willing to be made uncomfortable and find God there.

[1] David Whyte, “The True Love,” from The House of Belonging

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Advent 3- Patience

James 5:7-10
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

James advises us to wait patiently as we wait for the coming of Christ. He mentions patience four times in these three verses we just read.

It has been said that patience is something we admire in the driver behind us, but not in the driver in front of us.

Patience is self-restraint in the face of aggravation. It is the opposite of anger when faced with difficulty. It is not losing your temper.

Patience is an essential part of mature Christian character. Patience is mentioned as one of the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22- “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Patience is also mentioned as a characteristic of love in 1 Cor 13- “Love is patient; love is kind…” Over and over again when the Bible describes the character of someone who is living a faithful life we read that patience is a part of their character.

God has been trying to teach his people patience for a very long time. Abraham and Sarah were told they would have a child in their old age. In their impatience, however, they try to make this vision come true with Sarah’s servant, Hagar, which causes conflict after Sarah has the child God promised. Abraham was given a promise that his family would bring blessing to the whole world, but this plan moved slowly. It would take thousands of years, in fact.

Their decedents, the Hebrews, would have to be patient as they awaited release from slavery in Egypt. Then when they were released, they wandered for 40 years in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land. They eventually were taken by the Babylonians into exile and learned patience as they longed to return. The people of Israel learned patience as they longed for the Messiah to come and save them. James mentions the prophets, who stood and spoke God’s words to a community that didn’t want to hear them and sometimes endured terrible persecution. The disciples of Jesus had to be patient as they awaited the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. Jesus’ disciples continued to be hopeful and patient as they awaited the day when Jesus would come again. We read James say today, “Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord”. The early Christian community would endure numerous hardships and persecutions. It is patience that allowed the martyrs to endure to the end.

Over and over again in the stories of the Bible, and in descriptions of Christian character we see patience mentioned or implied. It is a characteristic that we are to develop as followers of Jesus. God wants to help us develop patience.

We learn patience in numerous ways. We might learn patience as a part of our job. If you are a carpenter, or a farmer, or a lab tech, you will probably be better at it if you know how to apply patience. James says, 

“The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near” (James 5:7-8).
 I once read a story about a little girl who was part of a farming family. She was very excited to see the seeds the just planted start to grow. She would go out into the fields every day looking for green shoots. Day after day she would ask her father when the seeds would grow and her father just told her to be patient. One days she did see little shoots spring up out of the soil all over the field. She was very excited, but she grew impatient again as she watched the young plants. They didn’t seem to grow at all. So one night she snuck out of bed and went through the field and pulled each plant up just a little to help it grow a bit quicker. Well, we know how that story ends. If you don’t have patience, you won’t be a very good farmer.

We need patience to learn certain skills. To learn a musical instrument you need to spend a long time practicing. Without patience you’ll give up. To learn a language you need to spend time memorizing vocabulary and repeating grammatical structures. It takes patience.

We are also taught patience as we endure circumstances that are beyond our control. The weather is out of our control. It requires patience to endure the cold day after day, week after week.

We can use ordinary circumstances to help us learn patience. Waiting in line at the grocery store or the coffee shop can be an opportunity to learn patience. James says, 
“Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors!” (James 5:9).
 Rather than grumble and complain and get snarky with the cashier (something we will be judged for), instead, use it as an opportunity to learn patience. Difficult people will also teach us patience. I often think that God gives us at least one difficult person in our lives to help us learn patience and kindness. Instead of grumbling against this person and casting judgement on them, learn patience. Use these circumstances as a gift from God to train your character in patience. We grow spiritually not only as we do religious stuff like reading our Bible, going to church, and spending time in prayer. These everyday circumstances are important opportunities for spiritual growth.

We can use difficult circumstances to teach us patience as well. Illness can be a powerful teacher of patience. I don’t believe God causes suffering, but I do believe that God can bring good out of suffering. Patience can be a good fruit God brings out of difficult circumstances. Enduring suffering can teach us patience if we let it.

It is important that we develop patience because it is a part of being like Christ. Jesus was able to love those that were beating and torturing him on the cross partly because of his profound patience. God is very patient. He works slowly and incrementally throughout history. Even in my own life I’m amazed at God’s patience to watch me take two steps forward and then three back. God’s goal is transformation over a lifetime, not a moment. If we are to become more like Christ, then it is essential that we learn patience. If we learn patience then we will be able to stand against injustice and oppression. If we learn to be patient in the grocery store, and in learning an instrument, and with difficult people, then we will become stronger when it comes to dealing with the big things. We will be ready when God needs us to stand against some evil. If we are not patient in these small things, then we will not have the character to stand in these big things.

God is not finished with this world. He is working in history to bring about his promises. But we will have to be patient because this is on his time-line not ours. We might want all the jerks in our lives to be made into nice people, but God works over time. Small changes over a long period of time. God is patient, but a time will come when God’s world will become what He always wanted it to be.

Monday, 5 December 2016

John the Baptist- repent

John the Baptist is someone who would probably make most of us uncomfortable. He comes calling people to repent. To repent is to change- to change your mind- to change your purpose- to reorient yourself towards God. Change is often uncomfortable. If we want to lose weight we need to change how we eat and our exercise habits. If we want to learn to play guitar it means changing our schedule to make time to practice, which can be hard on the fingers until we build up callouses. If we want to stop a habit like smoking or drinking we will have to change how we react to stress, and change our patterns. … Change is often uncomfortable.

Of course staying the same can be uncomfortable too. Usually we will only change if the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing (I think Tony Robbins said something like that). Sometimes we won’t change our diet until we start having health problems. John made the pain of staying the same greater for those listening to him. He said that the Kingdom of heaven is just around the corner, and if they weren’t careful they were going to miss out. He was like a doctor telling them that if they don’t change their eating habits and start getting regular exercise they are going to have a heart attack.

Those in control tend to want things to stay the same. John says to the religious leaders, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matt 3:9-10). Being a child of Abraham was a way of presuming their relationship with God because of the group they are a part of. John tells them to not rely on that. It’s a bit like saying you belong to a church and were baptized as a child. Those are good things, but don’t think you are safe from judgement just because you are part of that group. John called the most respected religious leaders of his day a “brood of vipers”. He told them that if they really were coming to repent that they should produce good fruit- evidence of their repentance and changed life.

What was John’s problem with these religious people? The Sadducees took care of the Temple, which was the only place Jewish people could sacrifice. They cared for the main institution of their faith- they kept the sacrifices and worship services going. In Jesus’ day it was an institution many people felt was corrupt and too aligned with the interests of the Roman Empire. The Sadducees did not want to rock the boat. They were in power as long as the Romans wanted them to be, so it was in their interests to keep the Romans happy.

The Pharisees were similar in their outlook in some ways. They too shared a sense that they had special status before God as the children of Abraham, but they tended to emphasize the keeping of the Law. So much so that they created new laws to keep themselves from breaking biblical laws. When Jesus criticized them it wasn’t so much for following the Bible’s laws, but for these other laws they made up- sometimes called ‘the traditions of the elders’- or for placing too much emphasis on personal purity and not enough on care for their neighbours.

John’s problem with these religious people was that they put on a good show, but they lost the heart of who they were supposed to be. God had called Israel to be the light to the nations. They were supposed to follow God in such a way that the whole world would be drawn in by the beauty of a life following God. It was supposed to be a community marked by love and care for those on the fringes of their society, and complete dedication to God. 

The parable of the Good Samaritan is about this. The religious people walk past the man robbed, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch. The religious people probably walk past the man because of fear of the impurity that comes from touching a dead body. Their over-concern for purity rules kept them from helping a person in need, which denies the very heart of who they were supposed to be as God's people.  

That is what John was doing. He was calling people to repent and be the people God has called them to be. He called them back to the Jordan River that their ancestors crossed when they came to the Promised Land so they could re-enter it as the people they were supposed to be.

So what might John say to us? He would challenge us to be who we are called to be. What is the mission of the church as the body of Christ? Being a Christian is not a hobby. A church is not a social club. Being a Christian is not about being a good Canadian. Being a Christian isn’t just about believing in God, or going to church, or being a ‘good person’. … Being a Christian is about being a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is about learning to live life the way he taught us to live it. It is about allowing the way of Jesus to determine our actions in family, and business, and in everything we do. Being a disciple is to be an apprentice- to learn to live and be as the Master is. It is the life Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). … In all the ways that we are not acting and thinking as disciples of Jesus, John would call us to repent. … John would challenge us to be who we are called to be. We call ourselves Christians, he would want to hold us to that. But being a Christian is more than believing in the existence of God. As James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe [that]—and shudder!” (James 2:19). … I’ve sometimes found it interesting to try to meditate on my life imagining what it would look like if I took church away- would there be evidence that I am a disciple of Jesus in the ways I treat others? In the way I spend my free time? In my prayer life? In my generosity to the suffering? In my reaction to enemies?  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer hinted towards this).

Being confronted with the idea that we might have to change is uncomfortable. We always expect Advent to be warm and comforting as we prepare for Christmas. Then we are confronted by prophets like John the Baptist calling us to repent and telling us to prepare for a coming judgment. It doesn’t exactly leave us with an egg nog and Christmas cookies kind of feeling.

But for those who were ready to hear it, they went to John in droves to be baptized. They wanted change. They saw a man in the wilderness crying out. They saw their path was crooked and they wanted to make it straight. The Pharisees and Sadducees were offended by John. But there were crowds of ordinary people that welcomed his words into their lives. They saw a prophet like Elijah, and the words of the prophets were on his lips. And prophets were often killed for being in tension with their society and the ruling authorities- as John would be. Prophets offend those who don’t want to change. But for those who know that the world is a mess, and that they are a mess, they are more likely to embrace change.

People were flocking out to see John the Baptist because in repentance they saw hope and life. Our problem is that often when we think of repentance we think of it from one side and we leave it there- We tend to see repentance as thinking “I’m a bad person” and we stop there. In the Bible we read, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone… so turn and live” (Ez 18:32); “Turn to me, says the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn to you” (Is 45:22; Jer 15:19); “I am the Lord who does not remember wickedness, provided one turn from his evil ways and all his iniquities so that he may live” (Ez 18:21-22). God desires our repentance the way a doctor desires that we will eat better and get some exercise. We define Repentance as recalling the awful things we have done and then feeling bad about those things. The people went to John not because they wanted to focus on their sin, but because they wanted to turn towards God. Really that is what repentance is about- turning to God. This comes with an honest look at our lives to see where we might have turned away from Him.

Christian Spirituality includes repentance. Not as a way of living in guilt and bad self-esteem, but as a life that is constantly turning towards God. The verse from Isaiah that is attached to John the Baptist is 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’. We repent to prepare the way of the Lord as he enters our lives.

The goal of human life is to love and serve God and to enjoy him forever. When we understand this and live this way we will find our deep happiness. That is the teaching of the Church and the experience of the saints. Loving and serving God leads to lives of meaning and joy. This is not a simple joy, as if we will never deal with pain or suffering, but it is a joy that will underlay our lives. Repentance is the process of turning towards God in all parts of our lives. Repentance is turning to the One who loves us, and created us, and wants the best for us. Sometimes we have gotten stuck on repentance as being a locked stare on our mistakes and short comings. We need to refocus on repentance as a ‘turning toward’ God. If we do not take repentance seriously, then we will not grow in our spiritual lives because the spiritual life is the process of turning towards God.

I believe that John was so hard because of his great care for others. He believed there were consequences for living a life that was turned away from God. John talks about a tree that is cut down and thrown into the fire, and a chaff that is burned. Just as water is a symbol of washing, so Fire is a symbol of purification. Christ who is coming will baptize with Spirit and with Fire. John wants to see fruit of repentance. He wants to see that we have the humility to recognize that there are parts of our lives that need changing. Maybe we can interpret what he is saying like this- within us all we have branches that need trimming and chaff that needs to be burned. We are living trees with dead branches. We are wheat with the chaff still attached. Repentance is putting forward our dead branches and chaff to be burned by the fire Christ brings. This isn’t about God wanting to cause us pain, rather the branches God wants to remove are infected. He wants them thrown into the fire so that the rest of the tree will not be infected.

If we believe that God is for us and not against us- if we believe that God loves us- then we will not fear repentance. He desires our repentance the way a doctor desires their patient will start eating better. Repentance is ultimately about hope because it implies that there is a better future to turn towards. It implies that our future selves can be more like Jesus and God wants to make that possible.

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