What are your thoughts on restorations and renovations? Do you love them or hate them? It might be a little of both. They can be inconvenient and they can be expensive. But when it is done, there is such a satisfaction, remembering where things were at and enjoying where things are now. This could be as simple as restoring an old antique or doing a major renovation of a building.
Our church building is in the midst of some renovations and we have plans for more. Even though some things are a bit of a mess, we can already get a glimpse of where things are going. I can feel some anticipation of what things are going to look like when we are done.
I bring this up because God is in the restoration business. Yes at times in the Bible we find a call to rebuild and restore the physical structure of the temple. But God is in a different kind of restoration business, one that would affect us even if we had no church building. This is a message that Amos the prophet, powerfully shares with us.
Amos and Israel
If I had to summarize the message of most of the biblical prophets, it would be something like this: God’s people have lost their way, judgment is coming but God will also bring restoration to the people. I encourage you to read through the prophets look for those specific themes.
Amos was a contemporary of Isaiah. Although he was from the south in Judah, his ministry was in the north in Israel. So this is before the Assyrians attacked and destroyed Israel. It was a time of peace and prosperity. Instead of using that as a reason to be thankful to God, they embraced injustice and took advantage of the weak. The prophets told them to change their ways but Israel wouldn’t listen. Judgment was coming, a foreign army would come and destroy Israel. This would be the Assyrians.
Judgment wasn’t the final chapter of the story. Restoration was coming. God would rebuild David’s kingdom. That was a radical message as the north hadn’t been ruled by David’s line for hundreds of years. But David represented the time when things were the way they were supposed to be. Amos uses the imagery of a physical structure in disrepair but that is meant to point to something bigger. What looked like a ruined building, that is the covenant relationship of the people with God, would be rebuilt and restored.
Amos uses this amazing language to describe how great the restoration would be. Using agricultural imagery that his people would understand, he shows that life will be amazing. This is not prosperity relying upon human strength and wisdom but prosperity resulting from God’s work in them. Over and over, he speaks of rebuilding. But is not about buildings. It is about the people of God being in right relationship.
Those who heard these words would have struggled to believe them. Some who rejected God, would claim they don’t need God to prosper. They can get there in their own power. Others who saw where the injustice was going, believed that judgment was around the corner but that would be the end. Amos preached a message that included both judgment and restoration.
Restoration and Our Life
So what does this mean? The passage that we have looked at, specifically is about the future of Israel. But it affects us because worship the same God that is spoken of here. What we find in this passage is that our God is a God who is in the restoration business. It is a part of what he does. Can we find hope in that?
My experience is that God is still in the restoration business. I have seen it in my own life, in the lives of family and in the lives of people I have met through ministry. I have seen God take people from difficult times to a completely new life. I need to be clear, when I say restoration, I don’t mean a return to the way things were before. We sometimes watch videos of restorations of antiques. They don’t recreate the exact way it looked before. They replace parts, do a bit of a redesign, take the best of the old and make something new. That is kind of what God does with us. We need to ask, do we really believe that God can restore us? Are we somehow too far gone for God? It might feel like that sometimes but God is greater than that. No matter where we might be in our life, God is able to restore. we might not be able to predict what that would look like, but he can do that. I remember being in one of my lowest places over twenty-five years ago as a student at Brock University. If you would ave told you where I would end up, I would have laughed in your face. God can restore us, no matter where we are at. That is what we do.
Restoration and the Church
You may believe that God can restore individuals but can God restore the church? The Baptist church began as an attempt to restore itself to the model of the early church. It’s part of our DNA.
You may think there is nothing to restore as we are doing just fine. I happen to be optimistic as well. In a time when many congregations are just trying to keep the doors open, we are actively looking at new ways to minister effectively. It is a nice place to be.
But let’s ask the question, if the God of restorations was to do a work in this church, what would it look like? I can tell you what it wouldn’t look like. It would not be to simply return to the ways of the past. We live in a different world and there is no turning back.
What was it about this congregation that drove the first people to meet and that has kept us going for almost two hundred years? I have read our church history and we have mixed bag that has included some conflict and some cranky people But in that I have seen a pioneering spirit. This was present for the first Baptists meeting in Homer, then over on Church St and those who built a building here on Queen St. Neither a fire nor a church split could stop them. This congregation was actively planting church missions around the city. This congregation was the first to host Out of the Cold. We look to our past and celebrate their courage.
But what would this look like today? How could that adventurous spirit manifest today? We joke that don’t like change and that we like to keep to our traditions. But our tradition is actually to change and to courageously step into new experiences. I like that kind of tradition.
This is not about me as a pastor charting a dozen new directions. It is about believing together that God is still in the restoration business and that local church congregations are one of his specialties.
Can you remember have that special project done? Maybe you did the work yourself or hired someone to do it. You remember the rough shape it was in and then all of a sudden things were transformed. I think we get joy in that because our heaven Father loves that same process. But instead of working on antiques or basements, he works on people. He works on individuals and he works on communities. He does some amazing work, as you may have seen for yourself. When it comes to yourself and our church, I ask you once again: Do you believe that God can do it again?