Journey of New Beginnings

Sunday, January 10, 2016
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

We spend a fair bit of time on endings.  
Graduations - and if we want to spin that, and say it is really about stepping forward into a larger world, remember the French expression: balle des finisants - it is clearly about ending
There is no such celebration when one starts school, beyond perhaps a special breakfast or supper with the family.

Retirement parties - not everyone has one, but I’ve certainly heard of some significant ones.  But the parties held when someone gets a job are pretty minor, if they happen at all, and usually hosted by the person who just got the job.

Even for life - frequently I see over a hundred people gathering for a funeral, but when we have a baptism, beyond those who worship here each Sunday - when we have a baptism, if twenty people come out just for the baptism, that is a lot.

Now, don’t get me wrong: the marking of the end of things is not bad, and it is not even, usually, out of line (though I have to wonder about some of the graduation practices and expences).  Indeed, I feel that my work around funerals is one of the most important things I might do.

But sometimes beginnings almost escape us.  Chapter 3 of Luke is interesting....
The first 14 verses talk about John’s baptizing and his preaching.
Then three verses predict Jesus’ ministry
And then there is a concluding verse about his preaching, and then Luke wanders off to tell us how Herod adds to all the other bad things he has done by throwing John into jail.

Finally - a two-verse afterthought to say that Jesus, also, was baptized, and that the Spirit descended on him, and the voice of God was heard.  Though Luke does not even say who saw and heard these things.

It’s sort of like having reams of Facebook posts about all the things a parent has done over the summer, and then two lines “Suzie started kindegarten today.  Wow!”  And then on to other posts.

In the case of Luke, he then goes off to give Joseph’s lineage:  He was the son (as was thought) of Joseph, son of Heli, 24 son of Matthat, son of Levi, son of Melchi, son of Jannai, son of Joseph, 25 son of Mattathias,

And so it goes for 15 verses.  Right back to Adam.  Even though we really don’t care.

This baptism of Jesus is almost completely lost in the book of Luke.
Luke, who is really a good storyteller, who brings the ministry of Jesus to life...

But is that not an accurate telling?  Jesus headed down to the Jordan, and other than perhaps a curious discussion between he and John about who should baptize whom - you’ll have to look at Matthew’s Gospel for that - most people probably took no notice of him and his baptism at all.  He was just one of a crowd, he was just another person turning his life to God.

But we know, looking back, that this is a Beginning, with a capital “B”.

We have heard the wonderful things about his birth, we remember the story of his trip to Jerusalem as a youth.  And otherwise, in the Gospels we know, there is silence.  29 years of silence.

And then Something happens.  And it begins with his baptism.
And it leads to everything else that matters in all four Gospels, the Epistles, and the life of the church through the centuries.
It begins with the baptism.
That most people did not notice.

We do not always mark beginnings.
We don’t even always notice beginnings.

But beginnings are very important,
    and we need to pay attention to them.

At some point, someone began to have a dream of having a church here.
There was a beginning of planning.  We don’t have a date, though we might find a year.
There was a beginning of construction - perhaps we have a date for that, with the turning of sod or the setting of a cornerstone.  

But many beginnings are not noticed, or barely noticed, just like Jesus’ baptism.

Yet, at the same time, we are always called to new beginnings.
That is a profound part of our faith:
    we are called to renewal.  Constant renewal.
    And renewal is just a word for a fresh beginning.
    And renewal takes the action of the Spirit - that same Spirit that Jesus experienced at his “almost not noticed” baptism.

We are always called to new beginnings as people of faith.
And as communities of faith.

So it is that we are, perhaps, at the beginning of something important - with the dream of an affordable residence for seniors that might be built on under-utilized land.

When, exactly, did this idea begin?  We don’t know, precisely.  
But beginnings, even important ones, are not always noticed.

Endings - they are important.  They need to be marked in appropriate ways.
Beginnings - they are ESSENTIAL.  
Let us see what new beginnings we are being called to -
    as individuals, and as church community.
Let us be open to the Spirit of renewal.
Let us be open to the Spirit of new beginnings.