"Thus says the LORD:
I am going to restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob,
and have compassion on his dwellings;
the city shall be rebuilt upon its mound,
and the citadel sit on its rightful site.
Out of them shall come thanksgiving,
and the sound of merrymakers.
I will make them many, and they shall not be few;
I will make them honored, and they shall not be disdained.
Their children shall be as of old,
their congregation shall be established before me;
and I will punish all who oppress them.
And you shall be my people,
and I will be your God."
Jeremiah 30.18-20, 22
For years my Uncle Warren kept a 1965 Ford Mustang in one of the sheds at my grandparents' farm in Wakefield, Nebraska, just a mile from where I grew up. My brothers and I spent hours playing inside that car, even though we knew it was "off limits." But it was such a cool car, even sitting in that shed as it did for all those years. Let's face it: even on four flats and not a chance of getting the engine to turn over, that was a good looking machine.
My dreams of restoring that car were squashed when Uncle Warren came and collected it one day, just before I turned 14 and could begin seriously thinking about owning a car. But even today, I harbor dreams of someday owning a 1965 Ford Mustang of my own, possibly one I've restored by myself to some approximation of its original beauty. If I can't get a '65 Mustang, an original
Beetle or VW Bus will do.
Restoration is hard work. Recovering a glory that has faded due to time, weather, ill use, abuse and other such damaging factors is a painstaking process. Is this what God is promising in the reading from Jeremiah? I wonder.
In Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, the Book of Kells can be found on display. It is an illuminated manuscript dating to sometime around 800 C.E. Its date of composition is uncertain due to sketchy historical records of the time, but legend has it that it was found buried underground after the sacking of Kells Abbey, sometime between 1007 C.E. (earliest known reference to its existence) and the 12th century (charters inscribed in its pages place it back in Kells in that time period). Unfortunately, time and wear have not been kind to this manuscript, considered by some to be the greatest treasure of Ireland herself. It has required several rebindings, and a few have been more harmful than helpful. Pages have been lost over the centuries, and the beauty of the inscriptions has faded. Nevertheless, one look will convince even the most unartistic person that in its first days, this manuscript would have been a wonder to behold.
Imagine how it might be to behold the Book of Kells in the same way as the Saint John's Bible can be seen today. If a person could do that, or if a person could take that old '65 Mustang and bring it back to the condition it was in when it rolled off the assembly line in Detroit, then you could honestly say you'd done a complete restoration, couldn't you? All the glory of the original brought back, the years and the wear and tear wiped away so that what was originally intended could shine for all to see.
It is this kind of glory that God intends to restore. "Behold: I am making all things new!" Jesus says that what is now sullied and obscured by the grime and rust of sin and neglect shall be wiped clean, that though we have buried our glory in the stinking peat of our bondage to sin, we shall be made new again. And not only us, but the creation as well - all will be restored to its former glory in the fulness of God's time.
What to do until that day? Well, there's nothing that says we can't get a jump start on the work ahead of us. Ultimately, of course, the task is beyond us, but in some small way we are each others' restorers. God continues the work of restoration through us when we "do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6.8)
Did you know you're in the restoration business? You do now. There's gotta be a '65 Mustang out there with your name on it, or a manuscript buried in a peat bog that needs rescuing. Give thanks for restoration, friends - and let's get to work.