The screen declared painful truth, “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage.” After a power outage the day prior somehow our internet got zapped in the church office. We tried several solutions to no avail. We reset the modem and the router. We closed all our programs and reset both computers. We attempted to run the network diagnostic tool. I took further measures. I tried connecting to my home network but the signal wasn’t strong enough to reach. I pushed the internet button several times. I uttered a few words I probably should not have. None of these ideas worked. My laptop lost the “parish network” as an option to even connect with to get online. Then my dialogue box read “no network access.” I was cut-off.
Maybe people feel cut-off about church too
Maybe they have taken their connection for granted, until something disrupted the system, and now they feel separated from the community and left on their own. Maybe they’ve tried to clean up their desktop and hit reset, but still feel alone. Maybe their network diagnostic tools have told them something is not quite right, and they can’t figure out why or how this could have happened. Maybe the connection wasn’t as strong as they thought it was, so they tried another network. Where is the church when people feel cut-off? How can we connect with them?
Maybe I didn’t do it right…
I thought maybe I missed something in attempting to reconnect to the internet. So I tried running the network diagnostic tool again. It had some really great steps I paid closer attention to the second time. 1. Collect Information, 2. Diagnose Issues, 3, Perform the Following Actions, 4. Check for Additional Actions. Perhaps these steps could be helpful in our lives of faith when things seem out of whack. We call it repentance, guilt, a heavy heart, and other things – but what we are really talking about is our connection to God. When things aren’t connected right, we are offline. I ran the diagnostic tool a third time, this time envisioning it as a metaphor for confession and forgiveness. 1. Collect Information – this is the impact my actions had on others. 2. Diagnose Issues – this is what I did wrong. 3. Perform following actions – this is what I need to do to put things right again. 4. Check for Additional Actions – there had to be something else, right? If it was all on me this would be a disaster. Maybe that is why people feel cut off from faith, and cut off from the church – they may feel as is if everything falls on them. But faith puts the emphasis on what God does, even in spite of our efforts. Turning back to God, and not our own ability to solve our problems is the core of what repentance is really about. When we repent, we turn back to the Provider, hoping for help, guidance, and a word of forgiveness and restoration where we are no longer cut off, but back online, solidly connected.
Going back to the Provider
“You are going to need a new modem.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Nope. Nothing you can do. A new modem is the only way to get back online.”
“Ok then, I guess we better order it.”
“I see your warranty has worn out.”
“Of course it has.” Here was the moment of truth. No modem. No warranty. Just failure. I searched my nautical lexicon as I heard the news. “Blustering Barnicles! That stinks!”
The response was a voice of utter calm, “Don’t worry, I’ll have a new modem in the mail to you shortly. It’ll be there by the end of the week. I’ll send it with some installation tips so it will be easy to get back on the internet right away.”
“I hope you have a good day. If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Thanks again. Goodbye.”
If this really was a grace filled moment, the technician would have sent the new modem free of charge, not for $87 plus shipping and handling. But God would. That’s what God’s grace is all about – sending something undeserved; when the connection seems lost; when the self-diagnostic can’t solve the issue; when the only thing we can do is put our hands up in the air in disgust and say words that don’t solve anything or even make us feel better about ourselves.
Grace comes at a price. It comes at a price to the one who establishes the connection. Jesus connects us to the promise of his cross that never breaks. We might try to do it ourselves, but such efforts always come up short. We curse. We blame. We lose ourselves in frustration. But when we hand it over, outside ourselves, to the one who can help, possibilities emerge. Resurrection happens. We don’t have a toll-free number to call. But we do have prayer – and there is always someone listening on the other end, ready to make all things new.
Grace works on us because we can’t reestablish the connection ourselves. Yet Jesus gets us back online with a better connection than we could have ever dreamed of on our own. He replaces not only our modems and secures it to the router – he gives us his whole life – that his life becomes our whole life; as we bring this same connection to others, free modems all around.
Grace is that connection back to God and each other just when we need it; and we have no means to do it for ourselves. God gives it as a gift, free of charge. In Christ we are at full connection speed, as the dialogue box reads, “connected to the network.”
For through the law I died to the law, so I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20)