Jamie Buckingham once said, “All the holy men seem to have gone off and died. There’s no one left but us sinners to carry on the ministry.” I like that because it admits that we are imperfect but needed in ministry and certainly still a part of God’s plan. As Christians we have one of the most wonderful gifts that God could possibly give, that gift…the ability to start over, again. This past week I was setting up the payroll program in the new computers in the office. The payroll program has a security feature built in that when you enter an amount it cannot be changed. Well, I made a mistake, I put the wrong amount in the wrong column. The computer told me that I couldn’t change it! I pulled the plug and erased it. I started over.
Our Christian baptism reminds us that we too can start over. We emerge from the waters, “New creatures in Christ.” With God, forgiveness, allows us to begin anew.
Paul in his early adult life persecuted the Christians to the point of death. Was there any hope for Paul to ever change? Yes, on the Damascus Road Saul was changed into Paul. God allowed him to change, the Church had a much more difficult time of accepting this change.
God has always scrapped the old and started anew with His people. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. It is interesting when we look closely at this creation story: God created (but) the earth was “formless and empty,” in other words this may very well mean that God “re-created” the earth. It wasn’t that He created the world as we know it out of nothing. He recreated it out of chaos. Some believe that when Lucifer was cast out of heaven that there was mass destruction in God’s created universe. Here, God had created Heaven and all the angelic hosts in Heaven. It was marred or ruined by Satan’s sin. When God created or re-created the world, He was starting over.
The story of Noah and the Flood, is a story of God starting over again with His people. People became so sinful that it was necessary to bring life to an end. God selects the most hopeful prospects (Noah) and starts over.
The whole story of Easter is about more than you and me and Jesus. Easter is about the recreation of the world. A whole new world. The Church claims that, beginning with Easter, the world is recreated, as if God the creator starts over.
This is all important to us! When we fail we can start over. I marvel at people in tragedy, who have the gift of God within, and can start over. Our house burns to the ground, it is a tragedy, but we collect ourselves and find a new place to live.
Our spouse comes home and announces that they are leaving you. We go through stages of grief, denial and anger, but we collect our self and go on.
The optimist believes we live in the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears this is true. The Christian doesn’t worry about tomorrow, why?, because we live with the hope of being able to start over. See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
At the University of Chicago Divinity School each year they have what is called “Baptist Day”. It is a day when all the Baptists in the area are invited to the school because they want the Baptist dollars to keep coming in. On this day each one is to bring a lunch to be eaten outdoors in a grassy picnic area. Every “Baptist Day” the school would invite one of the greatest minds to lecture in the theological education center. One year they invited Dr. Paul Tillich. Dr. Tillich spoke for two and one-half hours proving that the resurrection of Jesus was false. He quoted scholar after scholar and book after book. He concluded that since there was no such thing as the historical resurrection the religious tradition of the church was groundless, emotional mumbo-jumbo, because it was based on a relationship with a risen Jesus, who, in fact, never rose from the dead in any literal sense. He then asked if there were any questions. After about 30 seconds, an old, dark skinned preacher with a head of short-cropped, woolly white hair stood up in the back of the auditorium. “Docta Tillich, I got one question,” he said as all eyes turned toward him. He reached into his sack lunch and pulled out an apple and began eating it. “Docta Tillich …” CRUNCH, MUNCH … “My question is a simple question,”CRUNCH, MUNCH …” Now I ain’t never read them books you read… “CRUNCH, MUNCH … “and I can’t recite the Scriptures in the original Greek… ” CRUNCH, MUNCH … “I don’t know nothin’ about Niebuhr and Heidegger …” CRUNCH, MUNCH … He finished the apple.” All I wanna know is: This apple I just ate — was it bitter or sweet?” Dr. Tillich paused for a moment and answered in exemplary scholarly fashion: “I cannot possibly answer that question, for I haven’t tasted your apple.” The white-haired preacher dropped the core of his apple into his crumpled paper bag, looked up at Dr. Tillich and said calmly, “Neither have you tasted my Jesus.”
We spend a lifetime starting over again, and again. When we were moving to Wichita and looking for a home, we visited lots of houses. There was something exciting about having a new place and starting over. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
In the Revelation Jesus said, I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; I will also write on him my new name. Even when it ends, it begins anew!