Reflection September 15, 2019 by Rev Sunny
Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28/ 1 Timothy 1:12-17 / Luke 15:1-10
God of the Second Chance
I don’t know what your experience of second chances is, but I’ve had two major events of second chances in my life. The first one is when I was called into ministry, which I’m sure I’ll have a chance to tell you some day. The second one is meeting and marrying Attila. When we are younger and less wise, we make foolish decisions. Whenever I talk with people who suffered in their first marriage and then got a second chance with their soul mates, I rejoice in their happy endings and realize how much I appreciate second chances. I love that, in a lot of cases, our bad choices and mistakes are not the end. Because both Attila and I are each other’s second chances, we appreciate our conjugal blessing more and more. Wouldn’t it be so sad if our mistakes end us without a second chance to fix them? Therefore, we should all appreciate second chances and never take them for granted.
In the Book of Jeremiah, as in other prophetic books in the Bible, God is giving the nation of Israel a second chance after their disobedience that led to so many years of foreign invasions, exile, and oppression. After Persia invaded Israel, King Cyrus sent the Israelites back to their land, and Israelites understood it as God giving them a second chance. According to Jeremiah chapter 4 that we read today, God’s people will see desolation of their land because of their acts of evil, “yet I will not make a full end.” Reading about the desolation of the land during this Creation Time brings a gloomy image of an environmental disaster that might easily come our way if we don’t change our lifestyles and policies that result in harming Mother Earth. God created the earth and commanded us to be carers of all creation, and we messed up; but the important lesson we are learning today is that God is giving us a second chance, like God gave Israel a second chance.
This month’s issue of the United Church’s Broadview magazine featured our youths who are fighting for climate justice. High school students are participating in climate strikes from school and protesting to make their governments to change their policies and act to stop the damage done by carbon emission. According to the research conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s body charged with assessing the science of the climate crisis, we have 12 years to slow down carbon emission before it’s too late. I’m not a scientist and don’t know what “too late” means, but it feels like an environmental disaster that could slowly kill all creatures. What pierces my heart is our youth activists saying, “The adults have failed us,” like the Israelites failed God.
Yes, the Israelites in exile were given a second chance; but it involves serious repentance and changing of their ways. The one sheep that got lost was not lost forever because the shepherd went to find it and brought it home. The coin was not lost forever. The shepherd who lost a sheep and the woman who lost a coin deeply rejoiced when they found what they had lost. We also heard a testimony of the writer of First Timothy, who is grateful for the grace of Jesus Christ for showing mercy for a sinner like him, and for choosing him to be an example for all sinners who repent and come back to God. Like the shepherd who rejoiced at finding the lost sheep, like the father who rejoiced at the return of the prodigal son, whose story is linked to the parables we read today, God rejoices when we turn back from our sinful ways.
Let us reflect on second chances today from an environmental perspective. We as Canadians and the members of the human race are rethinking our relationship with fossil fuel. We adults are hearing our youths demand actions for their future on this planet. We have failed our children by not passing on a healthy planet for them to live in. Our children are fighting for their future while adults are ignoring their plea and too nearsighted to choose a long-term plan. It is time we accepted God’s invitation for a second chance. Let us repent for our anti-environmental lifestyles. It’s time we started making decisions based on what is good for our descendants and all of God’s beautiful creation in the future, and not based on what is the most profitable now. We have failed God’s commandment to care for all creation and we have failed our children. According to the climate scientists, we have 12 years to fix the problem. We are given a second chance to do what is right for all of God’s creation. Let us repent our failings and turn from our sinful ways. Our youths are urging us to wake up and act. Let us respond to their call by changing our lifestyles to be more pro-environmental and joining them in demanding our politicians to make pro-environmental decisions.