Humble New Beginnings

Ephesians 1: 3-14         Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III

Jeremiah 31: 7-14             January 3, 2016

“See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth.

Prayer:  Holy and Creator God, please touch our hearts with your Spirit that makes all things new.  Amen.

The marketing geniuses at GEICO Car Insurance company have cracked me up with over a dozen commercials in the last year based on one slogan: “It’s what you do.”  If you’re Peter Pan, you stay young forever.  It’s what you do.  If you’re a fisherman, you tell tales.  If you’re a golf commentator, you whisper.  If you’re in the band, you love the final countdown..  If you’re a cat, you ignore people… It’s what you do.”  And other such mostly funny, mostly stupid, but memorable TV ads.

Of course, we know that often what you do is connected to who you are… what gifts you have, what affinities and interests you have, what God has created you to be.  Some athletes are born for their particular sport, like Michael Phelps… he was born to swim when you look at his body structure.  Some are born to fly, like my younger brother who grew up with a fascination with airplanes and a mind for engineering and now is a captain for ExpressJet Airlines after a career of designing aircraft.  Some are naturally born leaders because of their charisma and their intellect, like Steve Jobs.  You get the idea.

Whatever you might be “born” for, it might be connected to what you do for a living, or it might be connected to what you do for fun, or it might not be connected to what you do at all, but rather to what you feel, what you hear in your heart.  A sailor might hear the call of the ocean, an explorer might hear the call of the frontier, a woman may feel the call to motherhood, and a man, to being a father, and so forth.

But, in the heart of any of these calls, behind all the gifts we have, underneath the essence of what we’re “born” for, is the primary call of God to us.  Each one of us, I believe, is uniquely created to hear this primary call of God in the basis of what we do, or in the essence of what we’re born for, or in the heart of what call we feel and hear.

The great psychiatrist Carl Jung theorized that every human being has as a basis what he called the Collective Unconscious, and God’s Spirit in the unconscious mind opens our conscious mind to sense God’s call in all other calls and this can lead us to wholeness (http://carl-jung.net/collective_unconscious.html, retrieved January 2, 2016).

So, a person who feels and hears a call to help people may become a doctor, but it’s God who is stirring the call to help people, and the person feels more complete when practicing medicine.  Or, like Martin Luther King, Jr. who knew that underneath his call to lead the Civil Rights Movement was God stirring his heart for social justice.  And Dr. King wouldn’t rest as long as injustice existed for Black Americans.

However, because of our very own human nature, it’s easy for us to forget that God is underneath it all.  It’s even easier for us to become enthralled with our own abilities and lose sight that God is doing the stirring in our souls.  We can start to think that our own well-being is our own doing, and we forget to turn back and with humility bow before God with reverence, thanksgiving and praise.

Over 2,000 years ago, an artist named Timanthes painted a work called the “Sacrifice of Iphigenia,” which is regarded as one of the finest paintings of antiquity.  In his early years though, he needed training, and he studied under a well-respected tutor.  After several years of tutoring, the teacher’s efforts seemed to have paid off when Timanthes painted an exquisite work of art.  But, Timanthes became so enraptured with his own painting that he spent days gazing at it, admiring his own work.  One morning when he arrived to admire his work once again, he was shocked to find it blotted out with paint.  Angry, Timanthes went directly to his teacher, who admitted he had destroyed the painting.  The teacher said, “I did it for your own good.  That painting was retarding your progress.  Never forget that God gave you your abilities.  Start again and see if you can do better.”  Humbled, Timanthes took his teacher’s advice.  He had to remember God beneath it all, and he produced even greater works of art (Today in the Word, September 2, 1992, http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/b/beginning.htm, retrieved January 1, 2016).

The good news is that God is constantly calling us back from our own delusions of grandeur, our own places of self-attributed importance, our love of power and other self-absorbed tendencies we have.  God calls us

back from wherever we’ve diverted ourselves, or where we’ve been diverted to by life’s circumstances, or by others who have forced their will on us.  God calls us back to begin life anew because God leads us.  God keeps us.  God redeems us. God save us from ourselves.

Like the exiles in Jeremiah’s day, who were dispersed around the world because of the tyrannical and oppressive regime of the Babylonians, with joy, God called them back.  God promised them that new life will begin.  Not just for the leaders, not just for the well-to do, or just the healthy, or only those close by.  No, God called ALL of them back, from all points, from all places, including the blind, the lame, the old, young, pregnant, widowed and widowers, the outcasts, the mentally ill, the hurting, the lost, the lonely, EVERYONE.  God redeemed them from Babylon’s hands that were too strong for them.  They were to remember that God did this for them.

Paul taught that because we are in Christ, we are to humbly remember that God destined us to be God’s children by adoption.  Like any adopted child who becomes a full member of the family, we can begin again as full members of God’s family.  When we come back to God, we’ll find that we can start again with God’s grace all around us abundantly, and we discover that God’s grace never left us.  We receive forgiveness from God.  And, our understanding of God’s will is that God is endowing us with an inheritance that is good in this life and in the life to come.  This inheritance is God’s saving grace.  It’s our salvation.  It’s life-giving.  It allows us to start anew.

Why?  Because Jesus Christ was born.  If you’re God bornin the flesh, you are born to save.  It what you do.  It is what God does in Jesus Christ.

And with humility and with God’s blessings, we can begin all over again.  Now.  In this new year.  In your life.  In your faith.  Whatever happens in your life, on your faith journey in 2016, know that God is present in the heart of it all and callsyou to wholeness. God calls for you to begin anew, humbly remembering what God does.   Where you are, God can use you.  God needs you where you are.  Now is a good time to start with a humble new beginning.

We can begin all over again here in our church.  Whatever happens here at Christ Church in 2016, let us remember that God is stirring our collective consciousness underneath it all.  We begin anew this year, loving God, loving each other, loving ourselves.

If you’re a part of God’s mission and ministry at Christ Church in 2016, you welcome everyone, you do justice, you love kindness, and you walk humbly with our God (Micah 6: 8).  It’s what you do.  Amen.