A new beginning


22. December 2019By Karsten Risseeuw8 Minutes

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:19

On the verge of a new year, what is it, that builds a community? What is it, that moves our heart? The church in general and also our own community has a lot to do with new beginnings. Reading the bible, one can recognize a cascading series of new beginnings.

Everything begins

Everything begins with God. That’s where the Bible starts. We can follow new beginnings for this world, with Abraham, with Israel, with nations and with single people. It goes on in the New Testament. His work in Christ is the firm foundation of His righteousness and grace. This is at the core of the gospel. If we respond, this message of grace will transform our lives, our outlook and attitude. When it becomes our experience, we ourselves can become transformative for other people as well. It is Gods grace cascading down to a never ending series of new beginnings.

The Jewish rabbi and author Chaim Potok started one of his books with the sentence: “All beginnings are hard”. It is the entrance to a compelling story of development within the challenges of life. Indeed, there might not be easy beginnings, when we are dealing with ourselves or our past. It might be that our outlook for a next year is full of uncertainties. New beginnings can be very hard.

The gospel marks a new beginning of exceptional importance. It is a remarkable account of God working in this world. It is a new message, that sounds like this: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them”. That was a mind-blowing new message, as it did not start with my efforts, but with Gods efforts. While religious thinking is strongly linked to what people do, the gospel is about what God does. The starting point and outcome are dazzlingly different.

The gospel of Gods grace is both all-inclusive and conclusive. Everything has been done and no-one is left out. It is about you and me and everyone else. We can learn that God is for us, not against us. Embrace it with a thankful heart and let it become a new beginning for yourself.

We are all beginners

Benedict of Nursia (480–547) once created a set of rules for monastic life. It is called the Rule of Saint Benedict. St. Benedict’s Rule has been used by Benedictine monks for over 15 centuries. In the last chapter and closing words, he names it a rule for beginners. Actually it is the only rule they have. All monks stay beginners, so to say. There is no advanced course.

Probably this is very wise. If we dare to stay beginners, we can stay open-minded to what is happening around us and stay grateful for Gods message meant for us. Transformation is not just from one state into another state, not from one fixed point to another fixed point, but more from one attitude to another attitude. It forms our thinking and standing in this world, how we deal with eachother and ourselves.

When the apostle Paul writes to the community in Rome, he says: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). Transformation is aiming at the renewal of our mind. The gospel aims at giving us the tools and renewed mindset to live a transformed life.

This manuscript is a copy of St. Benedict’s rule from the 8th century.

Other new beginnings

Picking up on the original bible verses, Paul wrote: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Paul was not urging the fellowship to “become perfect”, now they trusted the gospel, but he was pointing in another direction. We, as imperfect beginners, were entrusted with a message of reconciliation. In other words: We can become a channel of reconciliation toward others. Speaking about reconciliation does not stop with us, but should flow through us to reach others in deeds and words. Reconciliation is something active. It has the power to transform and to create new beginnings.

Let’s start.

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2Corinthians 5:17-20

Images: WikiMedia (public domain)