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The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker

The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker is pastor/head of staff of United Presbyterian Church in Peoria, IL

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Presbyterian Church (USA)

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United Presbyterian Church, Peoria, IL


Lent Reflection: The Great Do Over

March 17, 2011

Eighth grade geometry was not my favorite class.  If you ever visit my office at church or look at my notes to myself for the week, you will understand that I have a messy mind.  It isn't that I'm disorganized; it's just that I think in different ways all at once, and so it can seem disorganized and a bit crazy.

That was the problem with geometry, because of all the proofs we had to do.  I remember one test in particular where we had just a small amount of space to complete a proof.  I was writing all over in my roundabout way and running out of room when I realized I had made a mistake.  The eraser of my pencil had long ago become a casualty of nervous fingers.  I was crossing things out and trying to smoosh things in the allotted space, and it just became a mess.  I didn't even know where I was in the proof anymore.  Time was running out, and I was certain I was doomed to failure.

My teacher must have sensed my distress and anxiety, because she came over to my desk and gave me a clean test.  It was one of the few times that I was happy to see a blank test!

It's like the time I was trying to bake a cake for my dad's birthday when I was young. By mistake, I put in a cup of salt instead of a cup of sugar.  Luckily, my mom caught the mistake.  I was devastated, though.  I thought I had just ruined my dad's birthday, but my mom got out a clean bowl, fresh eggs, and everything else I'd need for the cake.

Sometimes, we all need a do over, a fresh start, a second chance.  One of my favorite movies is City Slickers starring Billy Crystal.  Not only does it have great humor, but there are also so many great scenes and messages in the movie.  About halfway through, Phil confronts some cowhands who are being drunk and disorderly.  They end up running off and leaving these city slickers to finish the cattle drive.  This is a breaking point for Phil.  Maybe it's because he finally stood up for himself and others, but he breaks down, saying, "I am forty years old and my life has been a waste."

Do you ever feel like that? Have you ever been full of regrets?  If only.....  Maybe it is regret about a relationship, a choice, a time in your life.  Phil has lost his job, his wife has left him, and he feels like he's only made bad choices.  He hasn't lived the way he wanted to. Billy Crystal's character reminds Phil of when they used to play ball as kids and how when the ball would get stuck in a tree they'd yell, "Do over!" Billy Crystal tells Phil that he has a clean slate now.  He has a "do over."

Paul tells us that if we are in Christ there is a new creation, the old has passed away and the new has come (2nd Cor. 5:17).  Lent is the time to ponder and prepare for our own great do over.  In Christ we are offered a clean slate and a new life.  How will you live in response to the resurrection? What do you do with the forgiveness that is offered to you in Christ?

With the blank test, with the second chance at the cake, I had a choice.  I could focus on the past mistakes or I could be grateful for the new opportunity.  This Lent, what are you doing to look toward the resurrection?  We all are offered forgiveness. Our debts have been wiped clean.  So what are you going to do with your do over?

 


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