Years ago I served on staff of a church whose slogan was “The Place of New Beginnings”. It was on all the printed material, and as I recall, there was even an personalized anthem commissioned to sing the theme. (Now that I wrote that, I know there was. The refrain has begun circling in my brain and who knows when it might stop.) The idea was that it could be New Year’s everyday for people who needed a fresh start. And the church was a safe place of grace where all sorts of souls could move beyond and move ahead. That idea has guided my ministry for many years. Still does. I am convinced that the currency of the church is changed lives. And most significant changes will point to a day when a marker was put down, a tipping point reached, a conversion experienced. Those are the kind of things we rightfully celebrate, and on occasion, deeply long for.
Lately my concept of new beginnings is no less personal, but is finding a different point of origin. What if instead of inviting God into our new beginning, we endeavor to join him in his. The pages of scripture are full of instances where God woke up one day – actually God neither slumbers nor sleeps, but you get the idea – and said, “I want to go at this redemption thing in a new way. I’ll do a new thing and invite my people to come along.” Actually the Bible tells us that happened a lot. From starting over in the garden to the incarnation all the way to the new heaven and new earth there were hundreds of divine initiatives along the way. God is not static. His motives never change, but his ways of working and the specific form and focus of his initiatives do. It’s not that God is a moving target, but keeping up with his work in the world takes some looking for. And adjusting to.
Sunday we will talk about that some more. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, so he says. But this same God is working around us and invites his people to be a part of his redemptive purpose. It’s a both kind of thing. There are implications of that for our lives, and especially for our church – or any church for that matter. Let that marinate in your mind a little, and we will see how it tastes come Sunday. God is doing lots of new things, and the joy of a follower’s life is in chasing it down and joining the effort. The God of the Bible clearly engaged his followers that way. And at the risk of repeating myself, still does.