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God can sort out the mess

Regular columnist Mark Fairweather-Tall reminds us that we can all mess up sometimes, even if not as publicly as the Oscars, but that God can sort out the mess in our lives.

How did they mess up so badly? It was supposed to be the most important moment of the night. The Academy Awards, or Oscars, that recognise excellence in cinematic achievements, turned into a bit of a fiasco at what was supposed to be the most significant moment. The flagship award for ‘Best Picture’ led to an unprecedented outbreak of confusion as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced the wrong film as winner! Beatty looked confused as he opened the envelope, because inside was written “Emma Stone, La La Land”, so Dunaway then announced the winner as “La La Land”.
However, they had been given the envelope for a previous award. As acceptance speeches were underway, it came to light that the true winners were not ‘La La Land’ but ‘Moonlight’. How could those that were responsible for passing on the right envelope mess up so badly?
Of course, ‘messing up badly’ is nothing new. From the opening pages of the Bible at the beginning of time we see people making a mess of things. When God created the world He looked at all that he had made and saw that it was ‘very good’. As Adam is created and lives in the Garden of Eden he is given just one restriction, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17).  In the very next chapter, we read how Adam and Eve messed up as they ate the forbidden fruit.
Throughout the Old Testament, we read again and again of how people messed things up: Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph into slavery and pretended to their father he had been killed by wild animals; Moses led God’s chosen people out of slavery in Egypt, but they were a grumbling and rebellious people; David, a man described as being after God’s own heart, committed adultery and was guilty of arranging the death of Uriah. Peter denied knowing Christ; Saul was responsible for persecuting Christians. And so the list can go on and on.
‘Messing up’ was not confined to Biblical times either. As we look around us today, there is example upon example of people who get things very wrong. It can be easy to look at the mistakes others make and wonder how they could mess things up so badly. But for most of us, as we honestly reflect on our lives, we can see things that we are guilty of as well.
As we enter Lent, traditionally a time for Christians to repent, we anticipate the cross as Jesus obediently walks the path that will lead to his death. In his death, he takes on his shoulders the mess that we all make of living in the world that God created in perfection. He gives us the opportunity to receive forgiveness as grace and mercy is freely offered to us.
During Lent, we can embark on a journey that might start with the question, “How can they, how can I, mess up so badly?” However, as we look to the cross as the destination of the journey, we can reflect in wonder on a different question “How can God make what is so messed up, so right?”

Above image is courtesy of

Rev Mark Fairweather Tall is the Minister of Norwich Central Baptist Church.  


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