A Fresh Start In This New Year

(NOTE: an unfortunate incident happened last week at In The Garden – someone ‘lifted’ the cell phone of one of our most dedicated volunteers. I had intended to continue my series on tips for the new year, but also needed to include something about the theft. This is the first time that we have had this kind of activity in the over eight years we have been doing In The Garden)
Last week we heard about a New Year’s resolution – one that encourages us to not compare ourselves to others. We need to recognize and revel in the growth in ourselves.

Jesus told us,

    “I came so you can have real and eternal life, more and better life than you ever dreamed of.” (John 10:10, The Message)

We need to embrace that God still loves us no matter where we have been, no matter how long we’ve been there, no matter what we have filled our lives with; God, always has and always will love us just the way we are.

The Prophet Isaiah told the people of God:

    Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past (Isaiah 43:18)

Here we are in a new year. Let’s concentrate trying to be what we are truly meant to be. And let us all have compassion for others.

We are a varied community here, not only those of you who come on Sundays, but also the volunteers who come to serve. It may appear that these wonderful people who bring food and fellowship are wealthy and have lots of things you may not have. But that is not necessarily the case. We have members of the team and those who come who have been homeless in the past. Many of the volunteers are living paycheck to paycheck. Some are on very limited monthly incomes and just manage to eke by each month. But they give of their time and make meals to ensure you have a hot, nutritious meal each Sunday. And for that we are grateful.

You may think I am one of those ‘fat cat’ preachers getting paid a lot of money. I drive a nice car, I have nice clothes, and wear a fur coat in the winter. But there is nothing further from the truth. I serve a church in Worthington twice a month, do social justice work at the state and federal level during the week and am here almost every Sunday. But I do not get one red cent from the church. . . I am not paid. I do this because I am called to this ministry by God.

We had an incident last week which is greatly disturbing to me and should be to you. Someone stole a cell phone while they were picking up their cookies and leaving. This cell phone belonged to a person who works tirelessly every Sunday for In The Garden. She does not have the extra money needed to replace the phone. So that leaves her without a means to communicate with her children, and us without a lot of pictures from last week.

Whoever took the phone knows who you are. We urge you to return the phone in the next couple weeks (you can put it where you took it), with no questions asked.

But everyone needs to think about what the loss of an stolen item would mean to you. We have developed a community where we have learned to trust each other, warts and all. Now that foundation of trust has been shaken and it will take a long time for some people to feel that trust again.

None of us at ITG people to feel uncomfortable or afraid for themselves or their possessions when they come here, either to volunteer, worship, or eat lunch.

Do you?

So, as we move into the new year, let us all make a fresh start; look at how we can grow into people who are more like Jesus.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, we know what we are not all that you would wish us to be, that we sometimes do things that we know we shouldn’t, we sometimes hurt people. Please help us to put aside those hurtful behaviors and strive to be more loving and kind to everyone we meet, showing them your infinite love.

Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 11 January 2015

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