God Will Help You Turn the Page

January 1, 2006

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

Revelation 21:1-5

The New Jerusalem

 

 

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to wish you great happiness, abundant good health, and much joy and prosperity in this new year, to each and every one of you. God bless you.

 

It is New Year’s Day, and there is a scripture I’d like to share with you and explore with you this morning. It’s from the book of Revelation, which is the mysterious account that St. John gives when he is in spiritual retreat on the island of Patmos. He has supernatural experiences with the risen Christ. From the 21st chapter of the book of Revelation, here is what St. John says:

 

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared, and the sea was also gone. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. The one sitting on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

 

The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.

 

“Behold, I make all things new.” I would like for each of you to take that scripture to heart. Take it with you into the week, and please meditate on it, in your quiet times, in your meditation times, in your prayer time. Once again, the words of the risen Christ: “Behold, I am making all things new.” That is what Jesus is saying to us this morning.

 

Let’s look at that scripture. How about that word “behold”? We usually just slip past it, don’t we? But it’s there for emphasis. It means, “Look at this! Notice this!” “This is important,” Jesus is saying.

 

“I am making” – a present, on-going tense, by the way – “all things new.” Not “I made all things new” or “I will make all things new.” “I am making – I am in the process of making – all things new.” And here’s the good news of the morning: if Jesus is making all things new, that includes me and you. Isn’t that wonderful? What better thing can we look forward to in the new year than a new you, a new me?

 

We can look forward to changing circumstances, or bettering conditions in the external, but what greater blessing can there be than being better than we used to be? What greater blessing can there be than being smarter than we used to be or more sensitive or more understanding or kinder or more generous or more knowledgeable? What better improvement could there be?

 

Here’s the good news: Jesus is helping you do this! The Bible says that Jesus was right there from the beginning, creating everything in the beginning, creating you and me from the outset, and He says He’s going to renew us – He’s going to make us new. So on this January 1st, this first day of the new year, let’s take that to heart. Jesus is saying, “Behold, I am making all things new.” That includes me and you.

 

I’d like to invite you to close your eyes and picture a book on your lap. It’s a very important book, the book of your life, and it’s open to a page. It’s open to the end of a chapter. Pretend to reach over and take that page in your fingers. That page is very heavy, and you’re having a hard time turning it. That page is heavy with regret. Now, if you would take the other hand, and put that over your page-turning hand very gently. Feel your hand over the page-turning hand, stroking that hand a little bit, and then helping lift it a little bit to turn the page. Now, open your eyes.

 

The title of this morning’s sermon is “God Will Help You Turn the Page.” Today is a new year and a new day. It’s a day to turn the page, my friend, for you and for me. I’m calling this portion of my life “Chapter 2.” Up to October 21st, it was Chapter 1. After the 21st, my new re-birthday, it’s Chapter 2. God is helping me turn the page. Oh, do I need God’s help to turn the page! Maybe you do, too.

 

Why? Because it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard, sometimes, to turn the page away from the chapter called Regret. So many of us have regrets. I do. I’m preaching to myself here as I read this scripture passage. Sometimes we have such regrets. Regrets can take the title of “If only….” If only I had done this instead of that. If only I hadn’t done that! If only I’d worked harder. If only I’d done more. If only I’d said this. If only I hadn’t said that. Name it – it’s all under the category of regret.

 

Friend, it’s a new year. Jesus is making all things new. Feel his hand on yours, and turn the page. Turn the page away from regret. Keep the lesson, but turn the page away from regret. Nothing is ever a failure if you learn something from it. Keep the lesson, keep the treasures of your memory, but when it comes to the hard things that occupy your mind, turn the page, and God will help you.

 

There’s a saying: God never closes one door without opening another. But if we just keep staring at the closed door, we might miss the door of opportunity. So have the courage – let’s both have the courage – to turn the page of regret and move on into the future. And I’m going to tell you what that next chapter is about in just a second.

 

Why is it important to think about this as we consider this scripture? Well, because God has great plans for you. God has plans for you and me that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, because that’s the way God is. God made us, remarkably and wonderfully, and He has plans for us. But if we focus on the old regret movie, we might miss the opportunity.

 

I’m going to take a little step here into an area that I don’t know a lot about but most of you do, and that’s the area of sports. Let me ask you this: say a football team has played against another team, and they came in second…they lost. And there’s a video of it. The team returns to the locker room or wherever they meet together and the coach puts on the screen the movie of what happened out there.

 

Suppose the coach said, “Here’s what we can learn from this. Here’s what we did wrong, and here’s what we can do better next time.” That’s okay. But suppose every time the team meets, the coach plays that movie and makes them remember over and over again what they did wrong. He keeps playing the regret movie. What’s going to happen to that team? I don’t know much about sports, but I bet they’re not going to play very well.

 

You are the coach of your internal team. If we just play the regret movie, and we just pull up a nice comfy chair, take a bag of popcorn, and watch that movie over and over about what we coulda, shoulda, woulda, or if only, how are we going to make room for God? Turn the page. Let’s both turn the page, away from regret.

 

How about this for an affirmation? If you’ve got things that you are regretting, I invite you to look at them and consider this: “I did the best I could with what I had to work with at the time. I accept my own forgiveness.” Say it out loud:

 

“I did the best I could with what I had to work with at the time. I accept my own forgiveness.”

 

Feel the lifting that comes with that. Do you feel that lift of the heart? With that lifting comes some space for God. So let’s you and I let God help us turn the page away from regret … to what?

 

To potential! That next chapter that we’re turning to, even as we turn the calendar to a new year, is called Potential. That’s the way God is. God is constantly creating and re-creating. He’s making us new. How? Physically. It boggles my mind when scientists tell me that the body I’m living in right now is not the same physical structure that it was five years ago. That’s amazing to me. I look at my hand, and it looks about the same as it did five years ago. But all the cells are replaced. Different parts of the body are replaced at different rates. So all of us are being made new physically all the time. 

 

Jesus also wants to make us new mentally and spiritually. Sometimes, at least in my case, I think that may be the harder of the two. He wants to transform us from within and make us new in our minds.

 

Will you turn the page away from regret and turn toward potential? Turn toward the fact that our God is an awesome God and can do wondrous things beyond our imaginings for us? In one of my favorite movies of all time, Chariots of Fire, Sam Mussabini, my favorite movie character of all time, is a running coach. He is coaching a young Jewish fellow named Harold Abrahams who wants to be one of the fastest runners of the world and compete in the 1924 Olympics. It’s a true story. He shows slides of runners to Abrams. Does he show slides of regrets? No, he shows slides of Charlie Paddock, of Jackson Scholz, of Eric Lidell – the fastest men in the world of the day. And he says, “Memorize them. Memorize the looks on their faces. Memorize their statistics. Remember that it can be done!” Abrams went on to win a medal in the 1916 Olympics.

 

Play the potential movie. Turn to the potential chapter in that book of your life, and let God renew you, spiritually and physically. I’ve been experiencing this myself, personally. The doctor said that I would need to take physical therapy in cardiac rehab, and I began that a few weeks ago. I thought it was going to be like going to the gym. I didn’t think I’d particularly enjoy it. But much to my surprise, as Daryl Potter, a member of this congregation, predicted, it is enjoyable. I’m working muscles that I never worked before. I always used my body as a pack animal to get my mind from one place to another. It ain’t so. There is a joy that comes from running or walking or exercising that I never knew before. It’s a marvelous feeling. And I think of that scripture, “Your youth shall be renewed like the eagles.” I feel the presence of God restoring me a little more everyday.

 

May it be so for you. may you know that Jesus Christ is rooting for you, and He wants to help you turn the page away from regret, to the chapter called Potential, to the wonderful things He has in store for you. Will you accept it? I think you will. God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week and a happy new year. Amen.

 

© 2006 Anthony J. Godlefski