A young man who had made it big
had been away from home a long time traveling to exotic places all over the
world. He had not been very attentive to his widowed mother. His
conscience began to bother him and he decided to do something about it. He
sent her a unique gift, a rare South American parrot for which he'd paid $1200.
Well, time went by. Two
weeks, three weeks, and he heard nothing. And the fourth week he called.
When he got his mom on the phone he said, "Did you get the bird I sent
"Oh yes!"--It was so
nice, I cooked it the day after it came. It was delicious!"
"You cooked it! Mom,
that was a rare South American parrot. It cost me $1200. That parrot
could speak five languages."
"My goodness, son,"
the mother responded. "If only YOU had said something."
We hear it all the time.
If only I hadn't had that accident. If only I'd lived in some other place.
If only I were more beautiful. If only he had not died so young. If
only people were friendlier to me. If only I had more money. If only
I were younger. If only I were older. If only I had a different kind
of job. If only people really knew my abilities. If only--and it
goes on and on. If only.
We're going to talk about that
today, but we're going to talk about it in the context of an alternative stance:
next time. There's a world of difference between "if
only" and "next time." "If only" looks backward;
"next time" is a look forward. "If only" is a word of
defeat; "next time" is a word of hope.
Let's look at our scripture
lesson. Isaiah is often referred to as "the golden prophet."
He offers so much hope, such grand vistas of expectation. The text at
which we are looking today is a good text with which to live as we begin this
New Year. Listen again as he quotes God speaking, Verse 19, "But I'm
about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"
I like the way the amplified
version puts it in the present tense: "Behold, I am doing a new
thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it, and
will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and
rivers in the desert."
I don't know how it is with
you, but I like new beginnings. It doesn't matter whether it's a new year,
a new month, a new week, a new day--a new experience--I like new beginnings.
"A Jesuit priest, C.J. McNespy, once noted that scholars do not agree as to
when the liturgical (church) year really begins. The usual opinion, of
course, is the first Sunday of Advent. Others start with the Easter vigil.
Still others choose the Sunday which comes seventy days before Easter.
Father McNespy wraps up the controversy happily; "in any case, since
we need to be constantly starting over, it doesn't hurt to have several new
years." (C.J. McNespy, America, 1-25-64, p.149, quoted by Ellsworth
Kalas, "Ring Out the Old" December 29, 1985) I'll take as many
new years, as many occasions for new beginnings--as the calendar or religion or
life will provide. I'm glad for the chance for starting again. And
that's the reason I wanted to anchor what we say today in this passage of
scripture from Isaiah.
"Behold, I'm doing a new
thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it, and will you not
give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in
So it's against this background of God intervening in history, a God who is always doing a new thing--it's against that background that I want us to look at these two approaches to life--if only/next time.
1. “If Only…”
2. “Next Time…”