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Summary: Fresh starts as persons or churches do not come just out of guilt, nor out of blame, but out of a radical rebirth

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Bethesda First Baptist Church, Bethesda, MD, Sept. 5, 2004

Everybody needs, from time to time, a fresh start. No matter who you are, no matter where you have been, no matter what you have done, sometimes you just need a fresh start. Trying to fix things the way they are doesn’t work; there are times when you must start all over from the beginning.

Several years ago my wife asked me to build some cabinets in our basement. The job looked like a piece of cake. There was a nice open space at one end of the room, and all I had to do was build some kind of frame, put a counter top on it, make some shelves over here on the left side and some more over here on the right side, and then put cabinet doors on the front. Easy, right? No problem, done in a flash, right?

Wrong! Wrong! What I haven’t told you is that first, I had to deal with a window in that wall. The window was up high, too small, she said, and so, while you are building these cabinets, could you also enlarge the window? And, oh yes, when you get the window enlarged, how about bookshelves on either side, from the counter to the ceiling?

Now have you got the picture? I am standing in front of a blank wall of concrete blocks, with one little narrow window up here, and nothing else. Open up that window, build the cabinets down here, build the shelves over here, over there.

Well, I started. But, brothers and sisters, I started in the wrong place. I started with the cabinet down on the floor. Why? Because I wanted quick results. So I started with the thing I thought I could do right away. I built a frame, put some siding on it, laid the counter top out, all so that I could step back and say, “Look what I did!” I wanted the boss – I mean the wife – to applaud and say, “What a good husband I’ve got.” I like the goodies! I like making something happen, something I can see, something others tell me I’m doing well. I went for quick results.

But there is a whole lot more to the story. After I got the basic cabinet built and the counter top laid, then I decided to start on opening up that window. I knew what I would have to do. Those were concrete blocks, so I would have to take out the old window frame, knock out a couple of rows of block, and build a new frame for the larger window. I got my sledge hammer and prepared to hammer on that wall. I knew that would be fun! Tearing things down is always fun. But that’s another sermon.

Guess what? I had already built the cabinet and the counter out here, but I was supposed to hammer up there. I couldn’t reach it. I couldn’t get to the place I was supposed to hit, and even if I did, I was going to trash my new cabinet with broken concrete! I had gone at things in the wrong order, and so I messed myself up. I would have to take apart the cabinet I had so laboriously built, so that I could open up the window.

Now you think you see where this story is headed. But the story isn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.

I finally did, by hook and by crook, break out the block, build a window frame, and then went running off to the glass shop to buy a large piece of double strength window glass. Now if you were going to get a piece of glass for a window, what would you need to know? The size of the opening! You would need to measure, wouldn’t you? Well, duh. I said, “Oh, they will know how big it should be. Four rows of blocks this way, four blocks that way, they’ll know. And the guy at the glass shop said he did know. He cut it, I paid for it, I brought it home, I went to put it in – what do you think? You are way ahead of me. It was too small, about three inches short! Nothing to do but trudge sheepishly back to the glass shop, this time with measurements in hand, and buy another big, expensive piece of glass.

What did I need? I needed a fresh start. I had made so many mistakes that each mistake was causing another mistake. I needed a fresh start. Finally I had to tear out quite a bit of my cabinet work and start all over again. Just fixing up what I had wasn’t good enough. I needed what? A fresh start.

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