“Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:19-21)

Today, inspired by Peter’s witness in Acts 3:19-21, I invite us to reframe our perspective through the following three words: Return, Refresh, Renew.

“Return”: When Peter speaks to the crowd, he begins: “Repent therefore, and turn to God.” The actual words simply say, “Repent therefore and return.” Repent means to turn one’s life around. Peter promises that as we turn around and as we return to God, we find forgiveness.

The call to “return” takes on a whole new meaning in light of the pandemic. Even as we “returned” to in-person worship this past year, we also hope to “return” to regular patterns of worship and fellowship

But more than a physical return, we are called to return to our foundations. We return to Scripture to hear how God is speaking to us. We return to prayer as we seek God’s direction for our life together. We return to serving our community and those in need as we live out our faith and trust in God.

“Refresh”: Peter also speaks of “times of refreshing” that come from the presence of God. As we rest and return to God’s presence, we find our faith encouraged, our spirits lightened, our lives refreshed.

Consider for a moment the awe you feel at a beautiful sunrise or sunset or at a mountain lake or at the ocean. When we hear of “times of refreshing,” we are invited to experience that same awe in worship, in prayer, in music. We can experience that refreshing when we lift someone up. We can experience that refreshing when we feel the pull of the Spirit through Scripture.

That is why God commands us to take a Sabbath, a time of rest. God knows we need that time to refresh as we continue on this journey of faith.

“Renew”: Peter says that God promises an ultimate renewal for all things — “the time of universal restoration.” God wants wholeness and healing for all people and all creation. God wants to mend that which is broken, unify that which is divided, and gather all that is scattered. God not only desires that, but God WILL accomplish this restoration for ALL creation.

In anticipation, we seek to live into that renewal and work toward that restoration. Though renewal is based on that which is already there, renewal means that things will not be the same. We see how God is calling us in this particular time and place. We listen to ourselves. We listen to our community. And most importantly, we listen to God.

So, as we seek God’s renewal and restoration, we look to where we are divided, where we are broken. We seek to be the bridge between peoples. We seek to forgive one another. We seek to be a healing presence. We seek to listen to what God is already is doing and participate within it.

As we head into 2022 I invite us to use these three words as a guide for all that we do. I invite us to be open to how God can change and transform our perspective, to be open to how we can be God’s people in this time and in this place.

I recently saw a cartoon that expresses this change in perspective best. Two people are talking to each other. The first looks at the second and asks, “Aren’t you terrified of what 2022 could be like? Everything is so messed up …”

The second replies, “I think it will bring flowers.”

The first one is shocked: “YES? WHY?”

The second calmly responds, “Because I’m planting flowers.”

May we see this year as an opportunity, not a year to be feared but a year to be embraced. May we plant flowers as we return, refresh, and renew ourselves in the love and grace of God through Jesus.

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The Rev. David Armstrong-Reiner is pastor at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 2375 Ga. Highway 20 in Conyers. Contact him at pastor.david@conyerselc.org.

Editor

I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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