I was stopped at the intersection of Kimberly and Eastern here in Davenport a few weeks ago, and saw the large sign for Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore. I looked at the sign, with a whole lot of gratitude for this store that sells used or repurposed building materials and so much more for other people to use as they renovate and repair their homes. The store helps people save money and the environment, while giving its profits to support the work of Habitat for Humanity.
All kinds of people from this congregation support the great things that happen there, and I love the store’s name. It’s a re-store: a store for re-cycling, re-purposing, and re-using all kinds of stuff. But at that stop light, I realized (a bit delayed) that it’s also the word: restore. You know, like restoration. Fixing up and repairing, bringing something back to life. The ReStore allows restoration to happen – not just in the homes of people who buy some tiles or light fixtures there, but for the families and neighborhoods given new life from Habitat for Humanity’s work.
Some significant restoration was happening about 650 miles away from that intersection in Jonesville, Virginia last week. Eighty teenagers and 38 adults from St. Paul just returned from a week in Appalachia. They fixed roofs and installed floors, repainted walls, and put up siding, all to make homes warmer, safer, and drier. They were working to restore homes back to being livable places.
Like many of you, my participation on this trip was from a distance, mostly in praying for them, and finding all kinds of joy through pictures on social media and hearing stories. And even from this vantage point, it’s pretty clear that it wasn’t just homes that were restored, but people, too. Our youth and adults returned home restored a bit to their true, God-created selves. They came home with new friendships and a bigger understanding of the world and themselves, a sense of their own ability to work and make a difference, and a deeper connection with God.
According to the psalms, restoration is one of the ways that God bring us life. In the 23rd Psalm, we hear the psalmist describe God’s loving, guiding presence as a shepherd. “The Lord restores my soul.” And later, we read of this prayer of longing: “restore to me the joy of your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12). God is, metaphorically, a carpenter of sorts, coming into our lives to repair our shattered places, to hold together our scattered parts, and open up our shuttered hearts. Through forgiving grace, God peels back the shag carpet of our sin to reveal the shining hardwood of our real, authentic hearts. We are loved by a God of restoration.
These summer days are perfect ones to open ourselves up to God’s restorative work. It might be in restful, quiet times, along still waters and time away. But you might find yourself restored after a day of hard work and compassionate service, or opening yourself up to new relationships or knocking the dust off old ones. God’s restoration might come as you receive grace in a little wafer and touch of wine in communion and the joy of singing with all kinds of people in worship.
Or, maybe that restoration will come as a surprise, at a stoplight, when something dawns on you very much delayed. However it happens, you can trust that the Lord is our shepherd (and also maybe, a carpenter) and does, indeed, restore our souls.
–Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor