You Gotta Start Somewhere

Heritage Presbyterian Church

3rd Sunday after Epiphany
Sunday, January 22, 2023

Scriptures: Isaiah 9:1-4 and Matthew 4:12-25

In the mid 1970’s, there were three college dropouts named Steve, and Steve, and Bill, became fast friends and began working in the area of computer science.  Imagine what that looked like in the mid 1970’s: huge machines taking up an entire floor of a building, high-capacity air conditioning running 24/7 to keep the machines cool, punch cards used for programming, and a bunch of nerd males in white shirts with black ties running everything.

These three young men had other ideas, other dreams, and they knew this current computer world was not for them.  So, they invented their own computer operating system that didn’t need punch cards or miles of electronic tapes.  They also invented what was called at the time a “personal computer” that sat on the top of your desk.

By the way, these three men were Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniah, and Bill Gates – the beginning minds behind Apple Computers and Microsoft.

When these three men met and began working together, they had some basic ideas and dreams.  But I have always read that they struggled somewhat in the beginning.  

After all, if you are going to change an entire industry, you gotta start somewhere.

This is also true of any Christian ministry, church, mission, lesson, or undertaking: you gotta start somewhere.

Let’s look at the basic structure of how things worked in this setting, compare it to the beginning of the ministry of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and then see what we might learn from it that might apply to our own lives, plans, dreams, ideas, and ministry.

First, you need to start with an idea.

Actually, an idea might not be a broad enough word to describe how to begin.  Think also a vision, a dream, a goal, or even something better than the status quo that doesn’t work well or is driving everyone crazy!  

When John the Baptist came along to herald the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, he came with several of these points firmly in his work.  He had a vision of how his work was to be done, and it is universally believed that he knew his work was preparing the way for the Messiah.

The Baptist offered an idea that was radically different from the prophets of the past: yes, he preached to the people that they needed to prepare and repent, but he also offered them baptism in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of their sins.  This was brand new!

But John’s vision only went so far.  His work was the opening act for others to come and build upon it; once Jesus was baptized, John recognized that his work was finished.

John the Baptist knew his role and protected it fiercely.  Nothing was going to distract him from doing his ministry.  

He was following the Spirit, as all of us should.

Second, anything new is built on the shoulders of those who came before you; no matter what, no matter how different the new idea might be, it is built on the previous ones.

Imagine that Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates tried to start Apple and Microsoft without any knowledge of how computers worked.  How could they picture a computer that would fit on a desktop if they never saw the massive ones that used to be around?  How could they conceive of the possibility of a personal computer without NASA being forced to miniaturize their computers to fit on a spaceship?  How could they even predict their own model and operating system without seeing the original Tandy built-it-yourself computer that was sold back in the day from the pages of Popular Mechanics magazine?  Again, they gotta start somewhere, so they began with an idea of making computers smaller, more efficient, and more common.

Now picture how Jesus began his ministry: did he just begin speaking about the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven to people who had no concept of God or Heaven?  NO!  He began by speaking to the people of God, his own people, about the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the mercy of God.  This was new…but it was built on the backs of the all the patriarchs and all the prophets who came before him.

And, of course, he followed his own herald, John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Third, implementation is the tricky part.  Dreaming is easy, a brand new idea can be as clear as day in our minds and hearts, but how will that dream or idea get implemented?

For this, Steve and Steve and Bill at first relied on themselves.  They didn’t need workers or other idea people; they had each other to bounce ideas around in the garage of one of their families.  However, once their ideas began to go from the drawing board to the laboratory and the construction table, they found that the work of implementing their ideas would take a LOT more workers than just the three of them.

Look at Microsoft or Apple Computers today; they have a few more employees than just the three original visionaries.

The other thing that these visionaries had going for them was an extremely rich environment to begin their work.  The technical universities in California were ahead of their own times when it came to computer science.  If those three guys had been living in most other places around the world, their ideas might have died on the vine – or worse, been picked up by some eager thinkers who were in the right environment.

It’s the oldest rule in business:  location, location, location!

Turning back to the readings for today, note that Jesus didn’t call all twelve of his Apostles at first.  According to the reading from today and last week’s reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus began by calling six Apostles, three pair at a time.  He called Andrew and Peter, then James and John, and finally Philip and Nathanael.  Jesus seemed to work slowly and carefully, choosing just the right followers to be part of his inner circle.  Jesus knew them better than they knew themselves, which can happen when others look at us and see something we don’t see ourselves.  (I’ll bet Jesus was really REALLY good at this!)  

Jesus called the Apostles as he needed them.  By the time he was ready to send his followers out to heal and cast out demons and preach His message, he has chosen all the Twelve.  That was the number he needed at the time, and it worked for him.  

But I think Jesus had a few more followers today than He had back in his own day.  Makes sense…there’s more work to be done and more people to serve!

Also, note that Jesus chose his Apostles from folks that he encountered during his travels.  They were each from the various areas controlled by the Romans, Herod, and the religious authorities from Jerusalem; those Apostles were probably sick and tired of the status quo in their own lives.  Jesus didn’t have to travel too far in order to find them either.

Again…location, location, location!  

So…ideas, visionaries, implementation, workers.  Sounds pretty complete, right?

We left out one thing from our discusion; I’ll bet it existed in the environment that Steve and Steve and Bill worked in too. 

That one thing is hope.

Without hope, no one can buy into another’s dream, no matter how good and exciting it is.

Without hope, no one will listen to – or even believe – visionaries.  Because their ideas will seem…hopeless.

Without hope, implementation strategies will be countered by consistent messages of:

  • “That will never work” or
  • “That’s been tried before and it FAILED” or 
  • “That’s crazy!” or
  • “Why are you even trying?  Nothing ever changes…”

Hope is a powerful thing.

Steve and Steve and Bill brought us desktop computers.

John the Baptist brought us a message of forgiveness from the Messiah himself.

Jesus brought us all hope – those in his own day and those in our day too.

Just as Jesus turned darkness into light, he also brought hope to all believers in all settings and in all times.

And hope always leads to faith.

So…what do we hope for?  Really hope for?