Fresh Starts & Reconciliation

Sunday’s sermon … If you in need of something uplifting or inspiring, go to YouTube and type in “Nelson Mandela Ubuntu” and scan through some of the videos of him talking about Ubuntu. They are really powerful and exactly what I needed to be watching on Tuesday night instead of the reports on Super Tuesday (blech).  Wishing you all light, hope and Fresh Start Mondays!

 

***

Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
March 6, 2016

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Fresh Starts & Reconciliation

When I was in seminary, I worked with a friend who believed strongly in the power of “Fresh Start Mondays.” Every Monday, no matter how trying the prior week or weekend had been, she walked into our office with the bold declaration of, “It’s Fresh Start Monday!” before unlocking the door to her office and starting the day. It was always exciting to us when Monday happened to coincide with the beginning of a new month (that one kind of felt like a double fresh start!) and you can imagine our thrill one year when the new year fell on a Monday.

We all need a fresh start in our lives sometimes, don’t we? Whether we are feeling overwhelmed in our job or in our homes or in our relationships or in life in general, sometimes the best thing we can do for ourselves is to turn the page and start over with a blank slate.

But it is never that easy, is it?

I was thinking about Fresh Start Mondays as I was reading Paul’s words to the church in Corinth this week.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

If you really think about it, Christianity gives us a Fresh Start Monday every day; every moment, in fact. Christianity is about second chances. It is about resurrection; it is about the living and radical truth that death and pain and evil and our own imperfections will never have the final word. This is where grace is real in our lives. Through our faith, we have the opportunity to give ourselves a fresh start whenever we are ready to take that first step. We each have the capacity within ourselves to look at a situation – no matter how dire it might be – and say, “This is not how my story is going to end.”

Jesus came into this world to prove that God’s power is far greater than any tragedy or mess that we manage to get ourselves into here on earth. We get that fresh start – that was and is God’s promise to us. And as we once again take that Lenten journey to Easter morning, we hold on to the miraculous truth that – even when things seem hopeless and dark – there are no lost causes and God’s light always shines.

Paul talks about the fresh start of reconciliation in this scripture; in fact, he uses a variation of that word five times in six verses.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ
And has given us the ministry us reconciliation
In Christ God was reconciling the word to himself
Entrusting the ministry of reconciliation to us
On behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God

I was thinking about the South African philosophy of Ubuntu as I was reflecting on reconciliation this week. Ubuntu is a philosophy that talks about our humanness; there is no exact English translation, but it means, in a sense, “I am because you are” or “I am because we are.” Ubuntu means that we exist because of the existence of others. We should care for ourselves in a way that also cares for others. We should try to live our lives in a way that not only makes our world a better place, but makes everyone’s world a better place as well.

Ubuntu reminds us that we are all connected; we are all connected to one another and to God. As much as some of us would like to just conquer the world by ourselves, that is not the way that we were created. We were created to be in relationship with one another. When God created the world, God did not create just one person; God created more than one person and then called them to multiply throughout the earth. From the very beginning, we were created to stand in covenant with each another and when human beings were not getting along (and we know that happens because, let’s face it, people are people), Jesus came into this world so that we could have a clean slate. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection allowed (and continues to allow) us, as human beings, not only to be reconciled with God, but also with one another.

This scripture is a letter; it is a letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth because they were not getting along with one another. If you think about this scripture in very simple terms, Paul kind of pulled the Jesus Card on the church. Granted, “Jesus died on the cross for you, so y’all should just get along” does not quite have the same poetic and scriptural flow that Paul’s words do, but the point is virtually the same. Resurrection happened once and Paul was reassuring the people in Corinth that it was still happening in their midst.

But we have to seek reconciliation in our lives if we want that resurrection to be real.

I went back and forth this week as to whether I should focus my sermon on fresh starts and reconciliation for us, as individuals or for us, as a community and Body. I realized though, as I thought about Ubuntu and I thought about resurrection and I thought about what Jesus did in his life and what God calls us to do in ours, that the different layers of reconciliation are all connected to one another. We cannot truly be reconciled with ourselves if we are not reconciled with one another – and visa versa. And we certainly cannot be reconciled with God if we are not doing the hard work that is required to be reconciled with ourselves and with one another. And this is not a one-time thing; this is something that we have to constantly be doing every single day of our lives. Reconciliation is a journey, not a destination.

And that is where those fresh starts come in; because reconciliation takes work, it takes a lot of work. It is not easy to offer forgiveness. It is not easy to be on the receiving end of forgiveness. It is not easy to stand in covenant with someone that you do not agree with (and gracious, as this political season heats up, we all know that this is something that even our nation’s leaders are struggling with). It is not easy to let go of the things in your life that just are not fair. It is not easy to humbly and boldly live your life according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But in doing those things we are filled with so much grace and power. These actions, even though they are not easy, free us from the burdens in our earthly lives that weigh us down. They help us find peace. They act as the catalyst that we need in order to make this world a better place.

I wish I could say that this was easy. Here’s the thing: Sometimes I preach on something “easy” (and I use this term loosely, because none of this is really easy) like feeding the poor or reaching out to the needy and we can find tangible ways to turn those sermons into action. We can host a food drive or go visit someone in the nursing home or donate money and, in doing those things, we are living out the Gospel.

But reconciliation is not that easy; it is messy and hard and raw. There are no clear-cut rules when it comes to doing the right or wrong things and very often we have to do something that is hard for us to do.

But we have to remember that this is not something that we have to do by ourselves; this is something that God is doing through us.

Since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

God is using us to live out reconciliation in this world; to create fresh starts when hope is starting to dwindle and to be the hands and the feet and the face and the voice of Christ to a world that so desperately needs to be reminded that resurrection is possible.

We are halfway through the Lenten season. And while I know that, for many of us, that really does not mean much on a day-to-day basis, I also know that many of us are wandering in the wilderness right now. We are seeing death, but not resurrection; we are experiencing darkness, but not light; we are holding onto imperfections, but not grace.

And we need to turn to God. That is where true reconciliation starts.

Today can be a fresh start. It can be a fresh start for you, for your house, for your finances, for your relationships, for your parenting, for your job. Heck, it can even be a fresh start for the pile of dirty dishes filling your (okay, my) kitchen sink. It can be a fresh start for us as individuals and it can be a fresh start It can be a fresh start for us, as a community of faith and it can a fresh start for us, as a Body of Christ.

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

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