Summary: A sermon about new beginnings, fresh starts and do overs.
Do you remember December 31st? That night that marked the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. The night that you either committed to change a few things in 2012 or decided to just continue on like I did and say “new years resolutions are dumb.” What makes people claim the craziest things on new years eve? I've heard some crazy new years resolutions and I've got to say, I don't want to make new years resolutions again and I'm not going to make you come up with any resolutions today. What I do want to talk about today is Fresh Starts. That what people always look to January 1st as being. A new year, and new beginning. A start of something new.
There are three Biblical examples of fresh starts that come immediately to mind. We are going to unpack them a bit this morning and look at what they mean for us today.
The first fresh start that I thought of is Jonah. Jonah 1:1-16
If ever there were a man in need of a fresh start it is Jonah right now. A man of God being told to bring the message of repentance to sinning people and Jonah doesn't just say no but runs away also. If I were to put a label on Jonah's actions I would call it sin. Sin is anything that separates us from God and Jonah was now running away from God.
Jonah was a prophet. He was a person that God had spoken through before. He was chosen to be a “teller of good news”. Jonah was much like us. He knew God, he had a relationship with God and yet he decided not to do what God wanted him to do.
Life presents us with so many options today that it can be hard to hear the voice of God through all the noise of life. We spend our time on gaining things for ourselves and rarely think of ways we can gain souls for the Kingdom of heaven.
But Jonah got a fresh start. From Jonah we learn that you get a fresh start when you turn from your sin.
Lets continue to read in 1:17-3:3.
There are a couple things that we need to notice from the beginnings of Jonah's fresh start.
1. God still provided everything that Jonah needed even though Jonah was disobedient. It is hard to picture a giant fish being something Jonah needs but at that moment in time it was the perfect vessel for Jonah to be quiet and reflective of what was going on in his life.
2. Jonah learned the lesson God intended. There are times in my life where I can be absolutely hard headed and miss the lesson that is right in front of me. It is just natural for us to complain about the situation rather than reflect on it to learn. Jonah is now in a fish, he could have been so angry at God for not protecting him from this fish eating him. How easy would that have been? Put yourself in Jonah's shoes. You just got through overboard during a very bad storm, then a fish swallows you and you don't even die... nope you live through the whole ordeal and now are slowly being digested by this fish. I might be a little annoyed. But Jonah knows that this is for his benefit and starts to talk with God.
3. God spoke to Jonah a second time. 3:1. There is hope. Even through flat out rejecting God's instruction Jonah now has his fresh start. In golfing terms this is Jonah's mulligan.
4. If you are familiar with the story of Jonah, you might already be thinking ahead to after Nineveh repents. Jonah does end up going into Nineveh and delivering God's message, the people repent and change their ways and yet Jonah still thinks that they deserve to be destroyed by God. He even goes outside the city to wait for God to destroy them. And yet we see God offer chance after chance to Jonah. Now I am not sure what happens to Jonah. At the end of his book it ends with some questioning from God and no real clear answer where Jonah's mind was at the end. Here is what I do know. God continues to offer fresh starts so that we can get it right.
Another example of a fresh start comes from Jarius' daughter: you get a fresh start when you are dead.
I can't think of a better example of a fresh start than being dead and then being alive. But this is a wierd story. People are pretty good at knowing when other people are dead right? There are certain clues, like not getting up and well, lifelessness. And then there is a smell that starts to come after things have been dead for a little while. It is really not that hard to tell if something is dead or not. These people see Jarius' daughter and they see her dead. Jesus sees her and does not see her dead but simply sleeping. What? I remember having a gold fish, i remember my goldfish swimming around its tank and I would feed it and clean its tank, and then it started to swim a little sideways after time, and then a little while after that it wouldn't swim at all but just floated at the top of the water belly up. Dead things are not hard to identify and yet all these people missed it. In human terms she was probably dead... but Jesus is not limited to earthly rules... remember his Dad made the earth. Jesus sees our problems differently than we do. Every problem that I have faced so far has seemed like the worst. I have one problem and that is the biggest issue ever, but then comes another issue and that one seems like the biggest issue ever. Sometimes we treat our issues as if they are the thing that will kill us... there is no more ice cream in the freezer ... I'm going to die. But really that is sometimes what it seems like when we look back on things that have happened in our lives. This issues for Jarius' daughter really killed her. She was dead. But Jesus sees our problems differently than we do. While we tend to make a big deal out of things he sees them as opportunities. Jarius's daughter gets her second chance. Get up Jesus tells her and go eat something. And as if she were sleeping she immediately got up and started walking.