Monday, January 6, 2014

New Beginnings

It is that time of year: new resolutions, new promises, new hopes and dreams.  It is a time to reflect; a time to plan.  There are new firsts.  For me it is my first year in remission.  For some it is their first year without a loved one.  For others it is the “same old, same old.”  What if we really were given a blank slate?  What if when we woke up in the morning anything was possible?  How would you plan your day?  Would you plan your day?
What if you suddenly had the ability and perception to see after living your whole life blind?  Jesus “saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’”  “Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. ‘Go,’ he told him, ‘wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (this word means Sent).  So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.”  John 9:1-3, 6-7.
What if you were given new hope, when you thought it had disappeared forever?  “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  Now what do you say?’” “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’”  “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said.  ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared.  ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”  John 8:3-5, 7, 9-11.
What if you were given a new heart, a bigger one, like the Grinch’s, growing three sizes in one day?  “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately.  I must stay at your house today.’  So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a “sinner.”’  But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  Luke 19:1-10.
What if you were given a new life?  After Lazarus died, Jesus visited his grave.  “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.  ‘But Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’  Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’  So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’  When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”  John 11:32-33, 38-44.
When my best friend passed away last June after a grueling battle with cancer, I felt loss, sadness, and a strange lack of purpose.  “What do I do now?” I thought.  Then came an insight, similar to Iñigo Montoya’s back up plan in The Princess Bride: when all else fails, go back to the beginning.  For me the beginning is the book of John, the heart of the gospels.  It teaches, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness…”  John 1:1-5a.
God brings new beginnings.  When all else fails, God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  He brings new sight out of blindness, new hope from despair, a new heart where callousness and greed once reigned, new life from decay, stench and death, and light out of darkness.  Seeking God is a great way to start a new year.  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  2 Corinthians 5:17. 

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