Distance has been on my mind the past few days. A bit more than a year ago we moved from the Midwest to the West. We left Rochester, Minnesota for Dulce, New Mexico, a distance of a bit more than 1200 miles. And one thing we have done more of since we came out here is drive. Dulce is a great place for us to live but it is a small town in a sparsely-inhabited area, and without many of things that were so close to us in Rochester.
We participate in a home-school co-op, which is in Pagosa Springs, CO, a one-way trip of 48 miles. Our daughter's piano lessons are also in Pagosa, as well as a few other things she participates in, so in the average week we (truthfully, usually my wife) heads to Pagosa twice. Some weeks more than that.
To have a dealer work on our car means a trip to Durango, or 108 miles. Target, Sam's Club, etc. means a trip to Farmington, or 85 miles. That is also where I go to make hospital calls on members of our church. I have gone 2+ weeks without a trip to Farmington. And I have also made that trip three times in a week.
Traveling at night adds time into distance. Saturday we made our first trip to Albuquerque, for the state fair. It was a three-hour trip down and a bit longer on the way back. Night settled in just as we returned to the reservation, so the 60 or so miles left to home, which I drove at 60 MPH on the way down, took a bit longer, as I kept the speed at 45-50 MPH. Shortly after we arrived in Dulce we learned that when it gets dark on the reservation the deer and elk come out, and Saturday night was no exception.
Distance, in terms of time, was evident in a another way Saturday. In addition to going to the fair we were able to connect with a nephew I have living in Albuquerque. I had not seen that nephew since 1985 or 86. He is now nearly 36, with two children of his own. It was blessing that on our first trip to Albuquerque we were able to visit with them. Last May we were able to spend some time with his sister, my niece, when she made a trip north to visit us. While those distances of time were large, they closed rapidly, and easily, and we all look forward to getting together again.
Each week as our congregation gathers for worship we have a prayer of confession. In that prayer this Sunday I was thinking about the distance that sin creates between a person and God. Of course the big sins separate us from God. Anyone can see that. But what about the little ones? The sins that are so small, so insignificant, from our perspective? Thinking like that is when I misread the distance, because for all practical purposes the gap is the same. It may seem small, but for me to cross it would be similar to me jumping across the Grand Canyon. There is no way that on my own I can cross the gap caused by my sin.
It is a gap that is only crossed by my Savior, Jesus, who carries me to the other side. One Sunday last year I preached from Luke 16:19-31, a story that not only shows the chasm that exists between sinners and God, but that teaches that it is a chasm that can only be crossed in life. If a person doesn't come to have faith in Jesus before death, it is a chasm that they will never cross.
And thinking about faith brings me to the last of these thoughts I have been having about distance. And that is the distance to which God's forgiveness of sin reaches. Sure, it starts here, where I confess, but where does it end? The answer to that question is found in Psalm 103:11-12, which reads:
"For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us."
That is incredible. The Savior who closes the gap made by my sin takes that sin and casts it away. He casts it far away. He casts it as far as the east is from the west, a distance that is infinite. His adversary may still bring memories of forgiven sin to mind, but the truth of God's word is that when I come to God in faith my sin is taken away, the chasm is bridged, and there is no going back. Amen. To God be all the glory!
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.