The God of New Beginnings
- January 1, 2012
- Category: Topical
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins - and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins." (v22) New wine. Old wineskins. People see the fasting of John's disciples and of the Pharisees. But Jesus' disciples do not fast (v18). Jesus is questioned about that since does not fit with the religious observance of the day. But the Old System will not work with Jesus. The religious observance of the day will not work with the newness that Jesus brings. Old Systems must give way to Jesus, the God of New Beginnings.
Think of all the new experiences that God has brought you in 2011. The things that came up that were totally unexpected. The places and people you never thought you'd have come across. Maybe your Christmas celebration was a new one - different people, different place, different feeling, different than the past. It was new. An empty chair that wasn't empty a year ago. Another family added into the mix. A new ailment to make a busy month that much more exhausting. Grandkids at the "other grandparents" house. A new beginning.
God was granting Levi a new beginning. Jesus saw Levi "sitting at the tax booth." (v14) "Follow me." And Levi "rose and followed him." (v14) Considered a traitor by most Jews, this Jewish Jesus called Levi to follow Him and he did. A new beginning for Levi: new experiences, new people, new circumstances. Once hearing sap stories about why people could only pay so much, Levi began hearing parables about why God loves so much. Once sitting comfortably at the tax booth, Levi finds himself in a boat on the water. He sees Jesus calm the storm with a word. He sees Jesus walk on the water. Whoa. Jesus raises Jairus' daughter from the dead. Jesus then calls Levi and the other disciples to ministry and Levi casts out demons. Quite the new beginning.
Jesus is the God of new beginnings, but we must be careful not to equate new beginnings with progress. When God grants us new beginnings, we might begin with the attitude: "out with the old, in with the new." Our sole focus can become: to get better. A better husband. A better sister. A better friend. A better programmer. A better Christian. We say to ourselves, "This time I won't respond the same old way. I'll respond in a different way, a better way....a new way!" We say to ourselves, "With this new beginning, I will be different." Then, we find that it doesn't work out so well. We never speak up at family gatherings, then we finally do, and it is disasterous. We think to ourselves, "See, that's why I never spoke up for all those years. Then I do, and this happens!" Out with the new, in with the old!
We cannot equate new beginnings with progress. Let's take a look at Levi, the man with the new beginning. In Mark 12, Jesus is with His disciples. The Pharisees, trying "to trap him in his talk" (v13), ask him, "It is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" Imagine how Levi might have reacted. He was a career tax collector, comfortable at the tax booth, and Jesus is asked a question about taxes. This was an opportunity for Levi to show his progress. He had been with Jesus in new situations and circumstances. He had done the work of a disciple of Jesus. With all he learned, he just might know how to answer these Pharisees. But Mark gives no indication that any disciple spoke. It only records Jesus' answer, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Have you ever been listening to a speaker and the speaker asks a question? It's a semi-rhetorical question, so you answer silently - moving your lips. Or maybe you whisper the answer. But as you answer, the speaker answers his or her own question... and you gave the wrong answer? You look around, hoping people around you didn't hear your whisper. You are relieved that the speaker didn't see your lips move. I imagine Levi having that experience. Whoops! Wrong answer! I imagine that because of what we know of the disciples later on in Mark. Mark 14.50: "And they all left Jesus and fled." When Jesus needed them most, all the disciples fled. The new beginnings for the fishermen, the new beginning for the tax collector...no progress, just turning and running...the other way.
But you and I know that was not the end. Rather, there was another new beginning. After Jesus was arrested, Jesus was crucified. He died and was buried. Three days later He rose from the dead. He appeared to His disciples, to Peter and James and John and Levi. He is a God of new beginnings and He said to them, "Peace be unto you." No shaking of the head. No wagging of the finger. No demands for explanations. No condemning progress report. Just, "Peace." A new beginning.
Jesus is the God of New Beginnings. With the new experiences last year brought, you may have encountered new ways to manifest a same sin. Your pride may have turned to bitterness. Your lies may haved turn into self-justification. Your lust may have turned into greed. New sins. New failures. You need a new beginning and today, Sunday, January 1, 2012 is that new beginning. But God is not looking for progress. God will not hold out a carrot on a stick. He has for you a new beginning. He has for you new wine. At this altar, I wanted you all to come thinking about Jesus the God of New Beginnings. Here at this altar, receive the new wine that is the blood of Jesus. Drink it and take the grace of God in a new way. For new manifestations of old sins, take and drink. For needing new beginnings, take and eat. Receive forgiveness at this altar for the same sins in new situations. This new wine bursts the old wineskins, the old system. This new wine forgives and restores for it is the blood of the God of New Beginnings!