December 15, 2017
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Yesterday we defined repentance as reorienting to the right path. If Advent is the season where we can reorient ourselves to Jesus and his final mission for the world, then what does that repentance look like?
Consider the story of Apollo 13: On April 13, 1971, the Apollo 13 spacecraft was carrying three astronauts to the moon when an oxygen tank exploded.
Now leaking breathable air, tumbling through space with a new center of gravity, and drifting off-course, Commander Jim Lovell radioed to Mission Control: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Their mission immediately changed. They were no longer going to land on the moon. Their new mission was to stay alive and get back to Earth.
But were they even going the right way? To navigate their way home, the crew needed to locate certain stars and constellations. But when they looked out the window, they saw thousands of “false stars” created by debris from the explosion. They couldn’t tell the real stars from the fake ones.
They had to reorient using the sun, and it took all three of them to do it: One on the navigation controls, one checking the cross-hairs on the telescope, and one looking out the window to call out when the sun came around.
But then their trajectory kept shifting off-course. If they were just a tiny degree off-course now, they’d miss the Earth completely 200,000 miles later. Each minute they were getting closer to Earth, and so they needed an immediate course correction. And again, it would take all three of them to do it: One timing how long to burn the engines, one steering the ship left and right, and one steering it up and down.
This wasn’t the way they were supposed to fly their spaceship, but it worked. Their mission was called the “successful failure,” because they didn’t walk on the moon, but instead made it safely back to Earth.
What does all this have to do with repentance? The trajectory of our sin may seem small now, but further on it can have devastating consequences. Repentance is about course correction. It is less about what we’re moving away from and more about who we’re moving towards.
And here’s the key about course correction: We can’t do it alone.
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
I’m in what John Wesley called a “band” with the two other guys. A band in this sense is a group of three to five people who read Scripture together, pray together, and meet to to help each other grow into the fulness of Christ in this life.
Even though we live in different states, we conference call every week and share the state of our soul, what possibilities there are in our lives for transformation, and what’s in the way.
In other words, we meet for course correction. We confess sins, admit temptations, grieve with each other, celebrate with each other, and speak into each other’s lives.
Our trajectories keep going off-course away from Christ. So like the three astronauts side by side in the Apollo capsule, we call out to each other. We help each other see what the other can’t as we navigate through the fake lights of this world, pointing each other’s trajectory back towards Christ.
That’s what real repentance looks like. Remember, Advent is about the final stage of God’s new mission that resulted from our mission failure. Repentance as course correction is how we get on board. It really is a successful failure.
But trajectory and course correction are only part of the story. There was something else needed to get our astronauts home, and it’s something we need, too.
To be continued…
Lord Jesus, each minute we’re getting closer to you coming back to Earth. We need a course correction, and we need more than one. Would you bring people into our lives to band with us… someone to ride next to us on the journey to the fullness of your love in this life until you come back. In your name we pray. Amen.
- Where does the trajectory of your life keep shifting off course?
- Do you have two or three people you can band with? Who could that be at would that look like for you?
*If you want to know more about bands and how to be in one, check out newroom.co/bands.
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