Restoration and Reconciliation

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by Kurt Jostes

Several years ago I met Grandpa Bill, a retired volunteer from the Chicago area who came to Camp Restore as part of the CAMP group. Only, he wasn’t Grandpa Bill yet, but Bill Frenk.

After living many years in the Chicago suburbs, God had placed it on his heart to seek out an opportunity to personally serve and get to know “his brothers and sisters” he had never met, in inner-city New Orleans. That opportunity came in the form of the upstart APEX Youth Center at Gloria Dei, which was kicking off the week Bill was volunteering in New Orleans (January 2010). I remember Bill was quite anxious at the beginning of the week, but feelings of nervousness were soon swept aside by sheer joy as he made friends and received the title “Grandpa Bill” from the youth.

Fast forward two years, and Grandpa Bill was back, now with a coffee stand at Trinity-Claiborne in the Lower Ninth Ward, providing refreshments and getting to know the neighbors as the building was being restored.

Somewhere between all of the cups of coffee and conversation, Grandpa Bill had another honor given to him by a newfound friend – being anointed with oil! Straight outta the Bible, I’m telling ya!

Grandpa Bill’s story is unique but others like it are not uncommon around here (I was blessed to have the young gentlemen of APEX give me the nickname Drew Brees, but I’ll save that one for another day). The overriding theme is one of simultaneous restoration and reconciliation.

Per the New Oxford American Dictionary, reconciliation can be defined as the restoration of friendly relations. Related words include reuniting, mending, understanding, peace, harmonization, balancing, and to be made compatible.

It strikes me how our nation today seems to be crying out for reconciliation from all sides, yet the primary solution offered (voting Red Team or Blue Team) is by definition divisive in itself. I recall a verse or two that suggests putting our trust in princes isn’t all that, but it seems to be one of those parts of the Bible that doesn’t get much love these days.

Another unpopular biblical book (just ask Luther) is James, but I’ve grown to love it as I’ve personally witnessed fruits of James 1:22 so many times in New Orleans that I can no longer ignore them. As it goes,

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 (NIV) 

So, let’s apply this to, say, one of Jesus’ teachings…

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25 (NIV)

…and look at how this might be played out literally today in the United States…

“Saving” one’s life

“Save” life = live in “safety.”
Living in “safety” = live in “good” neighborhood.
“Good” neighborhood = house in suburbs.
House in suburbs = need to earn lots of money and long commute.
Lots of money = long work hours.
Long commute + long work hours = no time for cooking.
No time for cooking = fast food.
Fast food = obesity.
Obesity = heart disease.
Long hours work hours + long commute = high blood pressure.
High blood pressure + heart disease = heart attack or stroke.
Heart attack or stroke = DEATH.

(As crazy as it sounds to put it that way, it’s the unfortunate reality for far too many.)

The GOOD NEWS (American Dream Suburban Edition):

We now have drugs to combat obesity, drugs for heart disease, drugs for headaches, and drugs for erectile dysfunction. We have dating websites because you don’t get out much. Plus, plenty of alcohol and illegal drugs are readily accessible. We also have liposuction.

“Losing” one’s life

“Lose” life = live in “danger”
Live in “danger” = live in “bad” neighborhood.
“Bad” neighborhood = inner city.
Inner-city = Great personal relationships with neighbors, including many people in need; short commute.
Personal relationships with people in need = give away lots of time and money.
Give away lots of time and money =  impacting lives of those in need.
Impacting lives of those in need = joyful heart.
Short commute = time for cooking.
Time for cooking = healthy food.
Healthy food = healthy body.
Healthy body + joyful heart = LIFE!

The GOOD NEWS: (The Bible Version):

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

Let we who’ve already discovered the joy of service continue to encourage one another and do everything we can to share this blessing with our friends, neighbors and countrymen!



Myself with Grandpa Bill, Spring 2012 at the Northern Illinois LCMS District Convention. Photos courtesy Bill Frenk.

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