"Carve out two tablets of stone like the former ones, and come up to me on the mountain, and make an ark of wood. I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you smashed, and you shall put them in the ark." - Deuteronomy 10:1-2
I would like to tell you the story of Shirley Hines, whose spirit was crushed when Hurricane Harvey wrecked her late mother's coffee cups. I would tell you how Ann Dahms, a Maryland woman who read of Hines's loss, went to great lengths to find identical cups and have them delivered to her.
It's a feel-good story for sure: A stranger offered comfort where grief had overwhelmed. The suffering of the flooded guiltless was eased by the caring of one spared.
But that's not what is happening here at this key moment in the life of God's people.
The two stone tablets on which God had inscribed the Ten Commandments were not smashed to smithereens by a so-called act of God; it was Moses himself who destroyed them after coming down from the mountaintop and finding the people worshipping a golden calf.
Which is to say: As is true of every natural disaster and human tragedy, God had no part in this mess. It was made by Moses and the people, the former slaves God had brought out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. Yet only their sinned-against God could restore what they had destroyed.
So Moses fasted and prayed. He begged. He pleaded. He reminded God of their long history together and even appealed to the Divine Reputation.
"Okay," God said. "Get your stuff together, come back to me, and we'll have a do-over."
And so they did.
What precious, seemingly irreplaceable gifts have you smashed? What sacred relationships have you damaged beyond any reasonable hope of repair? What horrible mistake have you thought unredeemable?
"Come on back," coos the God of Second (and third and four-thousandth) Chances. "Let's fix this thing."
No matter how badly I mess things up, O God, let me never fail to appeal to your tender mercies. Thank you for always giving me another chance.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.