I once watched an amazing show from the BBC called Restoration Home. In the episode I was watching, young newlyweds Paul and Laura Baxter took on the daunting task of restoring the St. Thomas a Becket Church and turning it into their personal home. The glorious old church was in horrific disrepair. St. Thomas a Becket Church has a Victorian nave, and a medieval tower which classifies it as a cherished historical building. Even so, a catastrophic flood led to the church’s deconsecration over 40 years ago. The Baxters had a very limited budget so Paul did most of the work himself, learning the art of restoration along the way. One scene documents his progress as he secures over 7,000 slate tiles to the ceiling of the structure. Without the Baxter’s belief and hard work the magnificent gothic church would most likely have been lost forever. The end result was stunningly beautiful.
Restoration. We are drawn to the word aren’t we?
There are moments when we are more aware of it than others, but we all know that there is something not quite right deep in our heart of hearts. We need to believe there can be a new beginning, that life can once again breathe into the dark, dank corners where it seems all hope is lost.
And so we pray with the Psalmist, “Lord…restore our souls…” (Psalm 23:3)
Dr. Kenneth Bailey is a renowned theologian and authority on Middle Eastern culture. It is fascinating to read his works. One of the things I love it about his books is that he breaks down for his reader the importance of structure in Middle Eastern literature. Often, a piece of Middle Eastern literature will follow a pattern in which a series of phrases will be balanced on either side of a central, and therefore key phrase. Psalm 23 follows this pattern. The central, key phrase in Psalm 23 is at the end of verse 3. “For his name’s sake.” The remainder of the Psalm is a compilation of images of God’s tender care of us. He nurtures us, comforts us, protects us. He restores our souls… And in the process, his name is glorified.
We often think of glorifying God by what we do but the 23rd Psalm is a picture of how we can glorify God by surrendering to his loving care of us. There are times when we honor God by humbly receiving his good gifts.
In the Western church we often describe repentance as a being sorry and turning around to go do the right thing. The religious leaders at the time of Christ taught that repentance also included making amends above and beyond the offense. When Jesus broke down the concept of repentance for us in Luke 15 he redefined it. According to The Seeker of the Lost, repentance is the willingness to be found. My question for us today as we consider God’s glory is not only are we willing to be found but are we willing to be loved? Psalm 23 seems to say that God is glorified when we are.
“Gentle Shepherd, May my heart cease striving today. Help me to remember that you are glorified not only by my service, but by my willingness to receive your love. Amen”
What about you? How do you feel about this concept? Is it hard to imagine glorifying God through the simple humility of a receptive heart?