It does not surprise me that redemption and back to school are related. The idiom, a clean slate, originated with students who used slates and chalk to answer questions in school. When a student wiped the slate, the mistakes would disappear. A clean slate was an automatic “do over.” There is joy in starting again.
Tomorrow is the first day of school for my girls, and they will have new classrooms, teachers, and classmates. Of course their backpacks are stocked with new composition books, freshly sharpened pencils, and untangled ear buds. Lunch boxes sit at attention awaiting sandwiches and fresh fruit. There is a hopeful energy in our house. Whatever tension or struggle happened last year in school is in the past, and a new chance begins tomorrow. Both girls go to school with a clean slate, and they are anxious to get started.
We go to worship because we want clean slates. Often folks say, “I did not get a thing out of that worship service.” I don’t think that means the Holy Spirit did not move or that God was absent. I think it means the person needed to hear, “This week you can go out there and try again.” Or in theological terms, “God is always redeeming you. “
As believers we have weeks that deplete our hope. We say hurtful words to our dear ones. Or we get test results that lead to unanswered questions and more tests. Marriages crack. Often we show up for worship like students with ripped composition books, backpacks full of detritus, and a pack of Nabs rather than a healthy lunch. We feel used up, and we need a place to start over.
When I was learning to preach, a friend of mine critiqued my sermon. He told me I did a good job explaining the scripture and then added, “You forgot to preach the Good News.” He explained, “You told them what the Bible said and how it applies to us in our every day lives but you never offered the hope and redemption that comes from the Good News.” The Good News is Jesus lived, died, and was raised, and because of that we live in hope. We get a fresh start because we are forgiven. I had forgotten to offer the Good News.
I recall that during the season of Lent, Sundays are referred to as Little Resurrections; and Lenten fasts can be suspended for the day. Even during the most penitent of seasons, there is a place for renewal and revival. Worship is our place to wipe the slate clean, to call for a “do over” and to catch our breath for the week ahead. Worship is the place where we embrace the Good News, and like children wiping our slates clean, we get renewed hope for the week ahead.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.