A Fresh Start – 2014

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Synopsis of A FRESH START – 2014

Good and joyful day today to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the Lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite, we’re about to slice a piece of the Bread of Life, the Word of God. And today’s slice comes from: Luke 22:14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. 15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you.

When Jesus shared the cup with his disciples, he said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” although we call that first communion meal the last supper, it was also the start of the new covenant–a covenant that began a new church: the Christian church. And so, here in our gospel story, we have the old giving way to the new, just as the old year is now giving way to the new.

This reminds us that in spiritual things, as in nature, there are cycles of old and new, cycles of summer and winter, cycles of day and night. God created the world that way because we humans need cycles in order to grow spiritually. We need our spiritual times of warming up and cooling off, of seeing clearly and of groping around in the dark. And even though it sometimes seems as if we are going around in circles, if we are growing spiritually, each new year and each new day brings us a little farther along our path toward heavenly community.

Without changes of state–meaning variations continually flowing one after another–we cannot be perfected. Like the times of day and the seasons of the year, the stages that follow one after another in order are never exactly the same when they come around again; rather, they are varied.

I’ve been going through an experience in the last few years that illustrates for me the renewal of old giving way to new. A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that my eight-year-old computer simply couldn’t keep up anymore. I had souped it up about as much as possible, but it was coming to the end of the upgrade road. There was no getting around it: this old computer was slowing down my work. So I ordered a new one. At first I had a few problems getting the new computer set up the way I wanted it, but for the most part it went fairly smoothly.

There was eight years worth accumulated treasures and trash on the computer’s hard drives, including copies of sermons I had preached each Sunday since 1993.

So I decided it would be best to make a clean start. So after copying all the files on the old computer to the new one, I erased everything on the old computer and started over from scratch.

And then the problems began. I won’t bore you with the details–there’s nothing worse than being a captive audience obliged to listen to a lot of computer talk! Let’s just say that the moment I started setting things up again on the old computer, murphy’s law went into overdrive. I don’t know how many times I opened up the computer case to fix something, or how many times I reinstalled the same program I had already installed before. Like the cycles of day and night, summer and winter, it seemed as if I kept doing things over and over again. There were several times when I could have very happily picked up the whole computer and thrown it bodily into the trash can!

But you know, each time I installed something yet again, I got a little bit better at it. As I went along I learned new things, and re-learned things I had once known but had forgotten. As a result, the computer’s setup was getting better and better each time. I still have a lot of work to do on that computer; it is a work in progress. But i’m getting there.

Each one of us is a work in progress, too. Sometimes, when we have headed down the wrong path, or have simply gone as far as a particular path in life is going to take us, we need to wipe the slate clean and start over again. And when we face our times of ending the old and starting over again with the new, it’s nice to know that there is someone with us as we make these new beginnings–someone far wiser in the ways of human beings …… than I am in the ways of computers. There is someone we can turn to who will help us avoid so many of the mistakes we might otherwise make.

We read in lamentations: Because of the lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is his faithfulness.

When I had a problem that I simply couldn’t figure out while I was reinstalling the computer, I called technical support. When we have problems making our new spiritual beginnings, we have an even better technical support line: we have a direct line to the Lord through the bible and prayer.

With technical support, the line might be busy, or we may have to wait and wait on hold, or we may have a problem after hours, when tech support isn’t open. But as our text tells us, the

Lord’s compassion never fail. The Lord will carry us right through the night if we need it; and then, even though we may be exhausted, the lord’s compassion will be new each morning:

I say to myself, “The lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to those who seek him.

We all have our times of emotional winter, our periods of spiritual midnight. When we are in the middle of those times we may sometimes feel ready to give up and give in. But one of the nice things about the cycles of life is that after we have gone through them time and time again, we begin to have faith that the morning will come, that our winter of struggle and hardship will give way to the spring of new hope and new life.

Newspapers and magazines covered the fascinating story of Admiral Richard Byrd’s second trip to the South Pole. The 180th meridian is an imaginary but important marker. It is the International Date Line. When a traveler crosses it, he either adds a day or subtracts a day, depending on his direction. Admiral Byrd spoke of his experience of flying southward to the pole: “All the time we continued flying as closely as possible along the 180th meridian. Even without wind drift — for which adequate correction can be made — it is obvious that no navigator can fly exactly along a mathematical straight line. Consequently, we were zigzagging constantly from today into tomorrow, and back again into yesterday.”

At this season of the year our minds are crowded with recollections of the past year, some cheering and some sobering. But before long we find our minds occupied with anticipations of the coming year, some hopeful and some fearful. At this time the past and the future wrestle for dominance in our thinking. During this season there is a strange mingling of memory and hope. None of us are strangers to this experience.

In all of our winters and summers, all of our nights in days, all of our endings and new beginnings, we have the consolation, the hope, and the joy of knowing that we are gaining something truly new. In each of our cycles, both the small and large, we learn a little; we grow a little; we gain a little more understanding of one another; we become more able to love one another. And through it all, as our days and our seasons come and go, we are setting aside those old and worn out parts of ourselves, and with the Lord’s help, we are becoming new people.

This is what the new year and the new covenant of communion are all about: renewing our spirits and our lives in the image of the Lord’s love, wisdom, and kindness.

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