Talking Point – January 2024

A Fresh Start

WHEN I was at theological college, one of our tutors asked us what we thought about posters on church noticeboards. I think he was expecting us to say they were boring, cheesy or generally a bit naff. But, before anyone could say anything, one of my fellow ordinands said, “A poster on a church noticeboard changed my life!”. At one of the lowest points of his life he’d seen a poster which said, ‘God offers a fresh start’. With hope barely alive, he’d ventured into the church and discovered a God who loved and accepted him as he was, who was willing and able to mend his heart and help him to get his life back together again. A God who, just as the poster said, offers a fresh start.
Perhaps some of us would quite like a fresh start at the beginning of the New Year? Maybe 2023 was an ‘annus horribilis’ for you, or maybe you just sense there must be more to life than you are currently experiencing. Often at this time we make all sorts of New Year resolutions about losing weight, getting fit, giving up smoking, or spending more time with the family. We don’t always get far into January before our willpower fails. But what if God was offering us something completely different – a fresh start and a new direction?
My ‘fresh start’ came when I was at university. I had been exploring Christianity, watching the lives of my Christian friends and asking questions most of us wrestle with at some point: what’s the point of life? Why is there so much suffering in the world? What happens when we die? Then one night I heard someone tell Jesus’ story of the prodigal son – how the younger of two sons asked his father for his share of the inheritance, went off and wasted it on parties and prostitutes; and how, when he was destitute, he came to his senses and decided to return home; how his father saw him in the distance, ran to greet him, embraced him, and then threw a huge party to celebrate his return. “That”, said the preacher, “is what God is like. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, he’s there waiting for you, waiting to pour his love into your life, and to give you a fresh start.”
I said, ‘Yes please’ to God that night, and found forgiveness, freedom, joy, and a whole new purpose. The Bible and Church history are full of stories of people who are given ‘fresh starts’ – people whose lives were turned around by the grace of God. Come to church, and you will find similar stories today. God is still in the business of offering fresh starts.

If you’d like to find out more about what Christians believe and explore questions of faith informally, why not try Alpha?
Our next course is running on Tuesday evenings beginning 16 January.
Contact for details.
Rev’d Penny Cuthbert,
Associate Vicar, St John’s Caversham