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Calling a "Do-Over" by Pastor Thomas Engel

Sandlot baseball would not work without the “do-over.”

First, before I make sure we all know what a “do-over” is, I need to make sure that we are on the same page about what sandlot baseball is.

If you have watched the movie, Sandlot, you know about the field in the neighborhood where the kids go to play baseball.

The field has a rusted fence for a backstop, and there are no chalk lines, but the baselines are well-defined from many summers of kid’s running bases.

If you do get your pitch and send the ball sailing over the home run fence, it will go into a backyard where a dog named Hercules that got its name because of its massive size and strength chomps down on the ball, giving you no chance in getting the ball back.

Without an umpire and without any parents, the kids call foul balls and yell, “Safe” or “Out” as a runner crosses the bag.

With a close play, a discussion takes place about the call at the pitcher’s mound, and if it can’t be decided, someone shouts “do-over.”

Then, everyone goes back to their positions.

In my opinion, sandlot baseball is better for kids than organized baseball. On the sandlot, kids learn from each other and work out how to play a fair game on their own-without the help of hyped-up adults who can get over-involved and ruin a kid’s game meant for fun.

To further my opinion, I’m not for the instant replay in major league sports. I guess instant replay is calling a “do-over” by looking at the play again.

I accept that umpires are human and will make mistakes.

The way I figure it is that the mistakes will average out in the end for both sides. To me, mistakes canceling each other out makes for a fair game.

It’s a lot like life. If we keep too close of a count of mistakes, and if we are looking for complete fairness all the time, we will over analyze and not get much done.

When talking about life, “do-overs” have their limitations, for they work in some parts of life and not in others.

If there is a redecorating project to be done at home, you decide to be a do-it-yourselfer because you’ve been watching a lot of Martha Stewart and are feeling inspired, so you do a search on YouTube and get a tutorial and go to Home Depot and get help with what you need to do.

Even with all the help, the project does not turn out as you like. Some time and materials are wasted, but you can start over again with self-learned tips about how to do a better job the next time.

But, if you are in parking lot and get in a fender bender, you can’t tell the other driver, “Hey, let’s do a ‘do-over.’ You go back, and I will go back, and we will be more careful this time.”

It’s impossible to reverse the damage that has been done. You both will be calling your insurance, filling out forms, and going to the body shop.

In a relationship that is going bad because we have acted badly, we might say, “Can we start over again?”

You might say, “Yes, we can have a ‘do-over,’ but a lot of hurt feelings are still here on both sides. We will need to talk it out.”

A relationship gone bad can turn good again, but it will take a lot of work.

In much of life, it’s best just to accept most situations for what they are and move on.

We know the saying, “It is what it is.”

Again, I don’t have any data to support my opinion, but I think mistakes that either we let go or go back to fix make for a real life.

Reality is that life is never fully just one thing. It’s never perfectly good or bad. The ancient Eastern philosophy of Yin and Yang says that in time of light, there is darkness, and in times of darkness, there is light.

This philosophy talks about how balancing life should be a goal. It’s all about having equal amounts of light and darkness.

Well, when I hear about balancing life, my reaction is, “Yea, good goal, but then, good luck with getting everything in order.”

Getting the little ducks of life in line with each other is a difficult business. Those guys just want to keep wandering off. After all, it’s what little ducks do; they wander off.

As much as I want life to average out, or even better, get the good to outweigh the bad. Maybe, I need to go with the flow and not be fighting everything.

I think a good argument can be made that overcoming life’s challenges as they come builds a strong character.

To be clear, I am for fairness all the time, but I think that we have all lived long enough to know, even with our best efforts, that life just does not ever get perfectly level.

Now, at first, we might think this complicated business of getting things right is a only a human problem. That this whole business of “do-overs” and working with what we got is what humans who live in a world and lives of mistakes.

It’s a little bit of a downer that life is mostly about damage control.

It seems that since God, who is perfect, knows all, and has unlimited power, would not have to deal with “do-overs” and trying to work with things as they happen.

But, all that God does is damage control.

Let’s take a couple minutes looking at a few instances in Scripture.

We know God made a perfect world, for after He made each thing, He said, “It is good.”

But, at some point, Satan, who was the number one angel and was good, turned evil and rebelled against God.

With His dealing with Satan, God didn’t do a “do-over.” He didn’t remake creation, but He worked with it-damage control.

In the Garden of Eden, a paradise with everything in it for a perfect life, the first two people people living there had it all but ruined it all by disobeying God.

God didn’t do a “do-over,” but He worked with it-damage control.

When Cain killed Abel, God didn’t do a “do-over,” but He worked with it-damage control.

Then, it started to seem that every human being in His new creation that was made perfect in every way was going bad in every way.

Now, we are coming close to God doing a “do-over.” God was very disappointed what humans, who were suppose to be in His own image, were doing.

Humans had gone bad. Every human was acting up, except one, Noah.

With His creation, God did a big “do-over.”

From our Sunday School lessons, we know the story of Noah, his family, the ark, the animals, and the flood.

We, also, learned about the rainbow.

I love Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” You can never go wrong with a song about hope.

And it’s great that the rainbow teaches us our colors by the acronym, “ROYGBIV.”

But, the rainbow is meant to go much deeper for us as it is God’s sign that He will never do a “do-over” again like the flood.

The flood teaches us many lessons. It teaches us that God is quite serious about sin and how sin will meet its consequences. Most importantly, the rainbow also tells us about God’s grace and mercy and how He’s patient and long-suffering.

Even for us, who try to do good, we need to be sure that we think through what we are doing, for we don’t want to live with the bad consequences of our sins.

We can go back and “fix” a home improvement job that didn’t turn out so well with some touch-ups. But, sin causes damage, and repairing that damage is out of our control.

Talking about getting things in order, the world is way out of whack, and getting it any kind of good shape seems hopeless, for as we keep trying, our record of history of many attempts says, “Good luck with that.”

I don’t have any data that shows how many successes and failures humans have done in trying to make a better world, but we can see too easily that things are not seeming to be getting any better in these days.

With the increase of crime, the chronic division in politics, social unrest, economic instability, and concerns for our health and well-being in this confusing time of more questions than answers, we are frustrated and anxious as it seems like things are not getting much better.

The flood does give us insight to how we can hope for today in all of our issues, for we see how God cares for the smallest to the biggest animals and all of creation.

Talking about light and darkness, we see how both are needed in creation. In the light, there is growth, and in the dark, there is rest.

In the flood, we see the power of nature and its paradoxes and dualities. Water gives life, but it also can destroy.

On a hot day like today, you will see that I have my water bottle, and I water my flowers every day as the hot sun makes them droopy.

On the other hand, in a torrential downpour, we can see how a flood can destroy. Or, even in a home with a busted pipe, water can cause a lot of damage.

In Noah’s flood, we see how water destroyed, but in a sense, we can say that all of creation was baptized when the flood waters came in Noah’s day.

We can say sin was drowned, and Noah on the ark was saved.

Can we say that our baptism was in a way a “do-over” for us? We were born once into a physical life, but that birth was also into a life of sin. In our baptism, we were born again into a new life, a life of faith. All sinned was drowned, and we are saved from sin forever.

For baptism, we could go down to Foster Avenue Beach and get dunked into Lake Michigan.

But, I like our tradition that we sprinkle water in baptism. The drops of water we use show how water cleanses, but we also see that the real power is the Word of God that goes with it.

A cleansing of sin that only God can do?

When we come here on Sunday mornings and confess our sins and hear God’s Word of forgiveness of those sins, we are getting a “do-over.”

Every sin is gone. They are covered by the blood of Jesus that he shed for us on the cross. God chooses not to see our sin but to see only the blood of Jesus.

We leave here knowing that we have a new start.

Every morning when we wake-up to face our days, we can know that God is making for us His mercies new for that very day.

Let’s talk a little about how God works in our days, for the fact is that we go back to this old world of sin and our lives where we will continue to sin.

Although we hope we have lessons learned and do better, we are always facing that we still live in fleshes that will give in to their weaknesses and in a world that is far from any kind of order.

So, we are left to work with some real problems that we get ourselves into and the world dishes out.

We work with them how God works with them.

Although God did not make the problems like Satan becoming evil and the first humans falling into sin happen, He dealt with them by His mercy and grace, and we remember how He is patient and long suffering.

We work with what God gives us. We can never handle this sinful world or our messy lives because of our sins on our own.

How God works with everything is the way we work everything out. We live by His mercy and grace.

As Jesus said to his disciples in the storm who thought they were about to drown, “It is I. Do not fear.”

To calm the disciples fears, Jesus pointed to himself.

To the world that seems to be drowning in sin, the world needs to see Jesus.

If we think we are drowning in the messes of our lives, we need to see Jesus.

Jesus is the way God comes to us with His mercy and grace.

In this world and in our lives, we can only work with what we got, and what we got is alot-it’s everything and the only thing. By faith, what we got is God’s mercy and grace that can do all things in Christ.

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