Summary: For New Year’s: a participatory sermon, raising the questions:  What comfort zone is God calling you to leave?  What frightens you most about what God is calling you toward?  In what ways have you resisted God’s desire to bless you?  How is G
Every now and then God does something which guarantees that those among whom He is working will never be the same again. Whatever it is that He does may seem small and insignificant at the time, but after a while you come to realize that He has done something which has changed everything.
We’ve just celebrated Christmas again. After two thousand years this event still grips us and has power to move us. It seemed small at the time, this birth. Another tiny infant, born to a teenage Galilean girl. Caesar never knew. The Roman governor was not affected. King Herod came the closest, but his reaction was one of fear and hatred; he thought he had gotten rid of the problem, once and for all. To only a few shepherds and a handful of travelers from the East was this event of much importance. The rest of the world ignored it, never even knew of it. And yet, now, as someone has put it, all the armies that have ever marched, all the books that have ever been written, all the laws that have ever been passed, none has done so much as this solitary life. This one small event, in which God did something which guaranteed that those among whom He was working would never be the same again. Every now and again God does something which changes everything for those involved in it.
Here at the end of this year and on the threshold of the new one, that interests me. That intrigues me. Because I would love to get rid of the mistakes of 1997 and be ready for a new thrust in 1998. I would love to be ready and open for God to do a new thing in me and for me in this new year. There is so much rubbish from the past to be dealt with! There are so many sins, so many mistakes, so many miscues. I really wish I could start over, don’t you? I really with I could have everything changed and reshaped. Don’t you feel that way too? Don’t you feel the need of a fresh beginning?
It was New Year’s Day, 1929. Cal-Berkeley was playing Georgia Tech in the Rose Bowl. Roy Riegels, a Cal defensive back recovered a Georgia Tech fumble, ran laterally across the field, turned, and then scampered 65 yards in the wrong direction---straight toward Cal’s goal line. One of his own players tackled Riegels just before he would have scored for Georgia Tech. On the next play, Georgia Tech blocked the punt and scored. From that day on, Riegels was saddled with the infamous name, "Wrong-way Riegels." For years afterward whenever he was introduced, people would exclaim, "Oh, yeah. I know who you are! You’re the guy who ran the wrong way in the Rose Bowl!" If ever there was a person who wanted a new beginning, he was. A new beginning.
Louisa Fletcher Tarkington wrote for all of us when she mused: “I wish that there were some wonderful place
Called the Land of Beginning Again, Where all our mistakes, and all our heartaches, And all of our poor selfish griefs Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door, And never be put on again”. The land of beginning again.
Well, there is. There is such a land. But it is going to take some faith to get to it. It’s going to be a journey, maybe even a long journey. And getting there may not be easy for everybody. But I assure you that the Land of Beginning Again is worth going to, and that it is the place where God will do something that will change you forever. You will never be the same again.
This is going to be a participatory message. I have planned it in a very informal way. It will depend on your getting involved, directly, out loud. I’m going to pose four simple and straightforward questions in just a moment, and I’m going to ask for one or two people to respond to each one. I’m doing this because I believe that you have much to share with one another, and because I know that as we both share our faith and confess our faith failures, we will learn a great deal. And more than that, we will become better companions of one another on the journey. The very premise of this message is that God wants to do something in our lives to bring us to the land of beginning again. But we don’t always see it. We don’t always believe it. I think we can help one another see and believe.
First let me pose the questions, so that you can begin thinking about them. After that, I’ll sketch the Scripture story and then lead you through your response to these four things that will point the path toward the land of beginning again.