New Beginnings

[]New beginnings surround us everywhere. We have begun a new year, 2009, and with that we have hopes and fears. Some of us have made resolutions. And we have expectations of what the new year may bring to us. But it is a new beginning for us all. It will be a new year of leadership in Washington. And we don't know what exactly we will receive, but it is a new beginning.

It is a new beginning when it comes to the new life of faith and love as we saw a child baptized this morning, beginning anew in the Spirit. It is a new life for our nephew as my sister-in-law gave birth this week to a little boy. So it's a new life and a new beginning for him. And it is a new life in the heavenly realm for a church member who passed from our presence into God's presence this week. So a new beginning for her.

And we just read about the new beginning of Jesus when he was baptized and the Holy Spirit descended from heaven from a dove and came upon him, and he heard those words of affirmation, "You are my son, the beloved, and with you I am well pleased." So there are new beginnings surrounding us in all places and even here in Scripture and in the Sacrament of Baptism which we just participated in. The new beginnings are there.

But what will we do with these new beginnings? Will they be simply new beginnings with the resolutions that we have made? Mine is to lose some weight and get a little more fit…which I think was the same last year so I didn't do too well with that. But what will we do with these new beginnings? We have a country that is plagued right now with economic woes. And for those of us who have resources, what new things will we resolve to do to help the new beginning for this year become better for everyone? When it comes to our life of faith, what new thing will we do for God's glory this year? Is there something different we might do or something we might have always wanted to do and never found the time or made the time to do? What will we do with this new beginning of a new year in God's presence?

Jesus, with his new beginning of baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit upon him, begins his new ministry at this point. And in upcoming Gospel lessons, we will hear the stories of Jesus in this ministry that he will perform, those things that he will do on behalf of God to bring people into better relationship with God and to reconcile people with God and with each other. And so Jesus, who we look to as our Savior and 'the way.' is starting a new beginning, at least in the Scripture lessons for today. But we are beginning anew along with him. And will we make part of this new beginning a spiritual deepening? Will we make part of the new beginning some disciplines of faith that may have gone lax in our lives at times? How will we treat this new beginning?

Think of it this way: how many times do we desire and long for a chance at a new beginning? Sometimes when things are rough that seems pretty attractive. What would that mean? With the changing of the year, we're given that opportunity. And with the reawakening of the Spirit in our lives, we have that opportunity in faith as well. Let us work with this new beginning in a way that is positive, not just for ourselves and for our families, but also for our communities, for our country, and for our God. In making a new beginning and being deliberate about it in the ways that are possible for us, it can change lives, and maybe not just our own. What an impact we might all have in this world if we resolve to be different, to do what God has called us to do…not simply because God has called us to do these things, but perhaps because it is right and it is good. How different the world would be if we all focused on goodness and care and love for our neighbors and for each other, and for ourselves.

We have heard a lot in the last year about hope and what it means to be a people of hope. It's been used in political terms, and that's fine. We must have hope. But in spiritual terms, we also need to have hope, that God is doing a new thing, that changes are coming that will be beneficial to us…and yes, may be painful to us. But in the long run, beneficial to us and to everyone. And I think God is doing that new thing. I can't tell you exactly what it is because the phone in my office is not a 'red phone' - it doesn't go straight to God. I can only pray. And I pray for those things to be revealed in time in little bits and pieces. But I don't have a big map and I don't have the summary of how it all is going to happen or how it will unfold. But I do trust that God is doing something new, not just in this church, but in our families and in the community and in our country. And I have hope that in this same way, God is doing something new in our world, which all of us will be able to sing praises about at the end of 2009. May it be so, and may we transform our lives and our thoughts on how good a new beginning can be for us all.

January 11, 2009

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