A DAY OF NEW BEGINNINGS: THE DO-OVER DAY
Acts 19: 1-5; Mark 1: 1-11
On my computer, and perhaps on yours, there is an icon I can click that will allow me to restart my computer. A reset button is handy to have on a computer. I also have a button in my car that resets my trip odometer, allowing me to easily calculate gas mileage or distance traveled. In golf when friends are playing, they sometimes offer a do-over on the first tee called a “mulligan” if the first shot is botched. In children’s games when someone doesn’t like the way things are going they might call out “do-over” and hope to re play that last match, or point, or round. With board games players can just clear a scorecard or announce that a new round is starting. Ah do-overs; what a nice world it would be if we all got do-overs especially when we learn what a problem our rash or spontaneous decision has created! Around ages between 20 and 25, the brain in most young adults has formed the part that understands consequences. (As I said, in MOST young adults!) Back in teenage years that part of the brain has yet to form. Parents, therefore, are charged with protecting and guiding their children enough that some lethal or dreadful mistake is not made. In games we may get do-overs, but in life? In fantasy, writers have come up with scenarios where a portion of a person’s life is lived over or viewed until they learn something they are supposed to learn. Wikipedia lists 40 films with that kind of plot! Some films included the famous “Groundhog Day, and the more recent “Edge of Tomorrow;” one called “A Day,” and another called “Before I Fall.” Other titles include “Christmas Every Day,” and “The Last Day of Summer.” Ah if only fantasy were reality, so that if we broke a terrible law, or started an unplanned pregnancy, or made a bad investment or purchase, we could just go back and make a different choice. But realty doesn’t have actual reset buttons; we can repent of things we did; we can ask for and hopefully receive forgiveness; we can seek another job if we lose our last one; or we can move to a second relationship if we ruin a first one. We can learn from our choices and adapt our actions based on yesterday’s choices. But we don’t get a reset. What we do get is a new day! Today is new from yesterday; and tomorrow will be new compared with today! We do get chances to take another run at life after some sleep, or thought, or prayers, or all three. Of all the seasonal tales people watch in December, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is perhaps the best example of someone getting a do-over life, but yes, it is a work of fiction. Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three Spirits, the ghost of Christmas yet to come was the most terrifying. As the Spirit departed in his dream, the miserly Scrooge cried out “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the future! …The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. O Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!” [CHRISTMAS BOOKS, Oxford University Press,1954, p.71] What would you give to start a new direction in your life, this day; this hour? You can, you know! You need not be visited by three spirits, but by the Spirit of the Living God! Then the direction of your life can change! The Spirit has done that time and time again. For example in Mark’s gospel, even though John is baptizing people as they agree to repent of their sins, even John admits that his baptism is not adequate; it doesn’t create the change in one’s life that the Holy Spirit creates. If you activate the Holy Spirit in your life watch out! The Spirit starts to work at your own invitation! Who knows if you will love more unconditionally, or care more completely, or help more intentionally? Who knows how God could change your life if you were to hand the wheel over to Jesus? “Jesus take the wheel!” as the song title suggests. Inviting Jesus, or the wonderful Spirit, into your life can change things for the better! John said Jesus would actually baptize his followers with the Holy Spirit. [Mark 1:8] Some people who love the King James Bible read that passage this way: “Jesus will baptize his followers with the Holy Ghost.” Have you ever been baptized in the Holy Ghost?!! Let me tell you, you can’t hem and haw about your answer; you’d know if you were baptized in the Holy Ghost! Some of our Pentecostal friends could describe it; sometimes people speak in tongues; sometimes others fall to the ground slain in the Spirit. Sometimes people raise their hands and openly weep. It is a dramatic event that few Presbyterians have seen. But the Spirit waits for our invitation too. The Spirit has waited on your invitation to the dance of new life; your invitation to the change from spiraling or destructive directions; your invitation to “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord, to Thee!” This can be such a day; a to say “Lord, I have had done some things last year I am not proud of doing; and I have said some things last year I am not proud of saying. Today, I want a do-over. I understand it comes with remorse and repentance and all the rest, but I’m all in.” That’s what you can do today. It means you will have to submit to God’s will, but with you in the driver’s seat, how did things go in 2017? There are new possibilities in 2018! If you are ready for a change; a new beginning; a fresh start this is the day. Others have taken that step and did not look back! They embraced their past life (as Scrooge did); they acknowledged their present life too; but their commitment to make changes in their future life was the life changer.
There is a commercial for a medication that has people singing “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.” Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today! Can you embrace a new life even at the end of our communion service, today? I have a supply of round discs in my office. I hand one out to any person who makes the excuse, when asked about a task, “I’ll do it as soon as I get a round to it.” So I give them a round TUIT! “There!” I say. “Now you don’t have an excuse!
Can you make this commitment today? When you take the bread and the cup today, hear Jesus say to you: “I love you and I’ve given my life for you.” Then you can say in a whispered voice or in your head: “I accept your life, and I give you mine in return.” What a gift Jesus gave us! What a gift we can give Him if we more nearly do what Jesus would do, and respond more like Jesus. Singlehandedly you could begin to change your world today by taking those steps. Will you join me? Let us pray:
O Spirit, I will life differently! I will seek to love my neighbors more dearly, and follow Jesus more nearly. I will work for there to be more peace on earth, and I will let it begin with me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Jeffrey A. Sumner January 7, 2018