Summary: If not left behind us, our pasts, our mistakes and sins are ever in front of us, and we spend our time tripping over or dodging them. God wants us future- focused, not past-ensnared.
The following is a brief homily given during a weekly mid-week event called: "The Feast" at Yonge Street Mission in Toronto, Canada.
The future is a big mystery. One thing that we all share in this room is a lack of knowledge about what’s going to happen in the future. Often we think of the future being ahead of us, and the past being behind us.
Our First Nations brothers and sisters think the opposite way. The past, they would say is in front of them, the future behind. That’s because, they would say, they know the past, they can see the past through stories and history, so it’s visible, in front of them.
The future, the unknown, is out of sight, behind them. There’s a lot of wisdom in that.
But the future is where our hopes and dreams are.
Now, the Scripture passage that _____ just read...Those are some powerful words, spoken by Paul the apostle, a guy who had a lot to regret. He had been an authority present at the persecution of the early church and had approved of the murder of likely more than one follower of Jesus.
His words, I think, are helpful for us as we launch into 2014. In particular, I want us to focus on v.13 and 14. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”.
Paul talks about intentionally forgetting about what is behind, leaving his baggage behind. And instead straining toward what is ahead, setting his sights firmly on the future. His biggest life desire is to love God and to be used by God to bring the blessing of the Gospel to many.
But he seems convinced that in order to move forward in his life, he really needs to leave the past behind. He's not talking about everything in this past, obviously. He's talking about his lapses, his sins, the things that he is done but he regrets. The things that have left a stain on his conscience.
Is not true of us as well? We know that if we stay stuck in our regret for our past mistakes, it's like a rut or a hole that is really, really hard to climb out of. Focussing on our mistakes makes even thinking about the future, or making plans, kind of impossible, because all our energy gets focused on the things we regret. And regret consumes our joy and our energy.
Paul obviously regretted some stuff he had done. And some of what he had done was very serious. But he had clearly gone to God to ask forgiveness. And then beyond that, he had received and accepted God's forgiveness for his actions. That’s what we need to do too.
We need to first, like Paul, come to God in faith, confessing our sins and turning from them. and we need to trust in Jesus sacrifice on the cross. That’s the biggest most important thing we need to do if we really want to move forward in life. Then, we need to go to God every time we feel we mess up, asking for His forgiveness.
And you know what? He gives his forgivenss to us, freely. God wants to forgive us and he wants us to know that we are forgiven, so that we can be future-focussed. Because the future is where hope lives.
Like Paul, we can forget the things that are behind us and put all of our energies into what’s ahead of us.
May we leave behind the bad parts from our past, may we accept God’s forgiveness for what we have done wrong, and then may we press onward, seeking to live in a much, much better way.
Seeking to honour God rather than offend Him. Seeking to love God and love people. That’s how to live in a joyful way, and it’s the way to truly make a positive difference in the world. Love God, love people.
Never stop doing either. Can we do that as we move into this new year? Amen.