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Begin the begin

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sermon for Septuagesima

In the beginning…

What’s so controversial about that?

Given the much-hyped conflict between Science and Religion, it’s easy to overlook one simple thing: both Science and Christianity make the claim that there was a beginning. We might argue about the nature of that beginning, but we’re agreed that our existence has a beginning. It’s quite reasonable, then, to ask what began that beginning. Whatever began that beginning cannot have had a beginning and must always exist, can’t be made of matter, and must have made a clear choice to begin the beginning. Whatever many modern scientists may say, the belief in our Creator God is rational, reasonable and very plausible. It takes a lot of complex argument to come up with an alternative and, despite their best efforts, no-one – and certainly not Stephen Hawking - has really succeeded.


Today, Septuagesima, is the Scriptural New Year. Seventy days before Easter, we begin at the beginning again, reflecting on God’s creative power. Why today though?

As we prepare for the discipline of Lent, we need to go back and remember what we are trying to achieve in Lent. The fasting of Lent may prepare ourselves for Easter but we need to prepare to prepare. We can’t just embark upon a fast that we choose. All things must begin with God and His Creation. We often forget to do so, though. Human beings have been very good at creating their own gods. While the golden calf and the bronze serpent have been consigned to the bin of idolatry, we still have a tendency to want God to be what we make Him out to be. The god we make is often the one who either turns a blind eye to our sins, or makes it so that we haven’t really done any wrong. If we want to find out the God we worship, then we need to see Him as He is, away from our own biases and preconceptions, away from all that we see around us, away from all the things that influence us. We need to go right back to basics. We need to go to the beginning.

What do we see there, in the beginning?


In the beginning, we see God. In the beginning is His Word. In the beginning, we see His Spirit moving over the face of the waters that He has just created. We see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit already there before any thing exists. This is what God tells us about Himself as we read the Holy Scriptures. He tells Moses, “I AM.” He tells the Scribes and Pharisees that, before Abraham was, “I AM.” There, in the darkness before the light comes, there is God.

Then comes Creation: heavens, earth, waters, light, firmament, seas and land, grass and herb and tree, sun, moon and stars, animals, cattle and Man. At each stage, God reveals more about Himself. All of His creation is good – very good!
In the very act of creating things, God reveals to us what is good. Goodness comes from God – it does not come from us. Goodness is not made up by Society. For God to say that His creation is good means that Goodness must be there in the beginning before Creation. In the beginning we see that God is good, and goodness is part of who He is.
And this is where Septuagesima comes in.


During Lent, we tend to look at what’s good for us. We tend to call the shots by giving up chocolate or television, or taking up exercise or reading, which we do because that’s what we think will be good for us. But do we approach Lent selfishly, seeking our own way of discipline in getting back to God? That’s what many people do, using it as an excuse to find some accomplishment like Movember, or Veganuary, or a month without alcohol. What people outside the Church don’t know is that Christians take up Lent for the love of God, and that this means going right back to the beginning with Him. These weeks of the Gesimas are an opportunity for us to make that preparation to begin again, to return to God in prayer and look at ourselves with Him, seeking how we may make our Lent with His involvement.


Can we really begin again? Of course we can! Look, God promises us a new heaven and a new earth if we will but be faithful to Him. He is willing to begin again just as we should want to begin again. The Benedictines have a saying - always we begin again. Each day is new and God always wants us to begin with Him.

This is how we must live life: begin at the beginning until we come to the end and then stop. If God is with us in the beginning, then He’ll be with us at the end, too. You can be sure of that!

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