A Fresh Start, Week 4: Learning to Begin Again

Click here for the sermon text: Matthew 6:25-34

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Anne was at breakfast eating the cereal box ad for a “Great New Offer!” Her older sister Mary was reading the other side, “Guess what Anne, the offer is to get your name in gold!” The ad said that with one proof of purchase and a dollar you could get a pin with your name spelled in gold. The astreks noted however: Only one per household.

Anne was excited and grabbed the box, “I’m going to do it!” “I got dibs,” said Mary, “besides you don’t have a dollar and I do.” Anne was crushed, “you always get your way cause you’re older it isn’t fair!” She started to cry and ran off to her room, “Fine Mary, order your stupid pin!”

A few weeks passed and a small package arrived in the mail. Mary took it to her room and Anne followed quietly. She took a seat on the bed while Mary opened the box. Anne said with disappointment in her voice, “I hope you like your pin.” “Oh, it is beautiful!” said Mary. “Your name in gold as promised. Four letters. Do you want to see it Anne?”

“No. It is your dumb old pin.” Mary simply put the pin in the box and left the room. Anne was alone. It didn’t take long for the temptation to look to overpower her. She opened the box and tears began to flow with mixed emotions of love for her sister and shame for her actions. For there on the pin were four simple letters in gold: A - N - N - E. (Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul, 116-117). As Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” On that day, Mary fed Anne with a helping of grace.

Learning to begin again, fresh starts are based on a call and a response. The grace of God becomes the call and our acceptance is the response. With school now fully underway, what have been the triumphs and the tragedies? What is it you are longing for and yearning for after the new starts? Where do you sense a call to move forward?

What is the motivation under the surface? The words of Jesus in verses 24-32 dig down deep into our lives. They are words which parallel the first level of Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s first level, almost parallel to Jesus’, notes our most basic needs as the first level: air water, food, clothing. (http://www.abraham-maslow.com). We must have these.

Yet, surrounding these words are Jesus’ caution to not only respond to the needs of the poor, but to avoid the temptation of trusting in wealth. Stephen Covey echoes the reality we face in climbing ladders and trying to get to the proverbial top only to discover our ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall!

Jesus speaks to an audience who knows well the Old Testament and the promises God had made. They knew better than we do the truth of Lamentations, “The LORD's kindness never fails! If he had not been merciful, we would have been destroyed. The LORD can always be trusted to show mercy each morning (Lam. 3:22-23, ESV).” Every day the birds are fed. Every day, the flowers are clothed in their best clothing. Do not be anxious.

Our fresh starts, our hope begins when we seek after God’s kingdom! A life of simplicity of need and contentment is the answer Jesus gives. Few would argue we should put first thing first. Too many times I have heard the call to keep the main thing the main thing. If we did this; if we truly believed this to be the way, then for the follower of Jesus, we would place the kingdom of God at the fore of our lives...and all the things we NEED would be added.

We are in a position to be givers of grace, to live in practice the words Jesus preached if only we say yes to the grace, the gift of a fresh starts every morning. Let me give you a vocabulary lesson to help. Tom Davis at Due West UMC shared this idea a few years ago but I felt the ending needed a little more work...

Suppose your driving down the interstate, you get pulled for speeding. You’re going 90 in a 65. The officer gives you a ticket: we call that justice. But suppose the officer gives you only a warning: we call that mercy (or a miracle). But then let us suppose again the officer does neither 1 or 2. Instead, the officer gives you a life time supply of gas, unlimited oil changes and all repairs covered on your car. That my friends, is grace.

The Gospel is Good News and it tells us that a fresh start is always available to us and God even gives us the opportunity to be givers of grace ourselves!

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