Is this the End or the Beginning?

June 14, 2020

This is the last sermon I will write for Mazon UMC and Braceville UMC.  Tomorrow is the last day of my pastoral obligations in either town, or in the state of Illlinois for that matter.  For in two days, Ed and I will be moving to Pennsylvania to begin a new life in a new home.  No more leading worship, designing powerpoints, having fun with the kids during the children’s message, youth group and VBS, singing hymns together, writing poems, tending the church gardens, putting on extra activities and fundraisers like our 5Ks and tea parties, updating websites and facebook pages, or working with my ornery but lovable secretary, Randy, at either Mazon UMC or Braceville UMC.  It is the end of an era for me.

But it is also a new beginning.  For I will still be writing sermons, leading worship, and everything else the Lord calls me to do, only it will be at Deckards UMC and Sugar Lake UMC.  New adventures, opportunities, and challenges await.

And you, the members of the churches I leave behind, will have a new pastor, one with much greater experience and training, who I pray will stimulate you to grow in the Spirit, and lead you into greater service to our Lord in your church and community. And so may it not only be the end of my serving as your pastor, but a promising new beginning with Pastor Don as well.

Throughout our earthly lives, we all face many endings and beginnings.  The end of summer turns into the beginning of a new school year (at least hopefully for our children this year!).  The end of high school marks the beginning of college or career.  Marriage means the end of single life and begins new commitments.  The first child ends your private time, nights of uninterrupted sleep, and any semblance of sanity (just kidding – sort of).  The end of your current job either means a new job, unemployment, or retirement.  And the end of life means either a new beginning in heaven, or for those who refuse salvation through Christ, hell.

Throughout the Bible dramatic ends have marked glorious new beginnings.  The very first verse in the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  (Genesis 1:1).  After God created the universe and all that is in it in 6 days, he rested on the 7th.  He looked at everything He had made and declared it good.  But while that was the end of creation, it was only the beginning of all that was ahead for mankind…

When the first two people soon succumbed to the temptation to know evil, this knowledge infected all of God’s creation.  Only within one family did a spark of spiritual goodness remain, and so God flooded the earth and started over with Noah and his family.  But God knew this would not be enough, for He had already planned the next beginning even before the very first.

When we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, many who are not familiar with the truths of the Bible overlook what the apostle John declared, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  (John 1:1-3).  Jesus’ birth on earth was not His actual beginning or coming into existence.  It was only the beginning of His mission on earth, which was to redeem mankind from sin, death, and the devil; because evil had once again spread like a virus throughout the world, and without a Savior we would all have been doomed to an eternity apart from God.   If the history of mankind had ended on that note, there would be no more new beginning for the human race.  But for those of us who put their faith in Jesus Christ for their salvation, we have the hope that the end of our earthly life is only the beginning of something far better.

After Jesus had completed his mission on earth by dying on the cross and rising again on the third day, he commissioned his disciples and ascended back into heaven.  While it was the end of his days on earth to those who lived in that era, it was only a new beginning of life in Christ for believers.  It was the end of the Law, which had now been fulfilled by Jesus for us, and the beginning of Grace.  And one day, possibly soon, after the end of a seven year period of severe tribulation which will begin with the rapture of the Church, Jesus will return with all of his saints, to reign on earth for 1000 years, which will end the rulership of corrupt political leaders (including the coming Antichrist) and begin what we commonly call the Millennium.  And when that ends, it will only be yet another new beginning, for the old earth and the old heaven will pass away, and be replaced by a new earth and a new heaven, which will once again be perfect as was the original creation before sin entered the world.  (Revelation 21:1).  And thus time will end as we know it, and our eternal future begin.

It is my prayer for all of you that the ‘ends’ which we so easily fear or dread, be replaced by the hope of a new beginning, whether in this life or the next.  For what does the Bible say about fear?  “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7).  “In God, whose word I praise - in God I trust and am not afraid.”  (Psalm 56:4). “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”  (1 John 4:18).  May the perfect love of God fill your hearts and minds, and give you the hope of a bright new beginning today.  Amen.

VIDEO:  "Hymn of Promise"  (sung by Debra Nesgoda)

(Lyrics are included, so sing along!)