Second Sunday After Christmas Day: New Year’s Day

The passages from Ecclesiastes and Revelation are two of the scripture passages that the Revised Common Lectionary uses for New Year’s Day – which this year is on a Thursday and not my usual posting day. But since New Year’s Eve is a very typical time to make resolutions for the new year. I think it quite appropriate to look at this scripture passage and decide what in the new year we have time for and will make time for.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

What will you make time for, beloved reader? And what will you not take time to do?

What gain have the workers from their toil? I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with. He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13)

Does it surprise you that God wants us to enjoy life and living? We are all familiar with those who don’t seem to know what God does for them and what God wants them to do. But so often, too often, we assume God means for us to work hard. Nose to the grind stone and suffering for God – isn’t that the way we consider the Christian life? But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this new year, why don’t we resolve to “cast our burdens upon the Lord” and bring our problems to God.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’ “(Revelation 21:1-4)

A new heaven and a new earth – a new beginning of humanity. The beginning of the new year is something like this. The days are fresh and new – no sin has yet been committed, no hatred or violence has been expressed. And God is with us.

But we know as the days of the new year count themselves out, there will be sin; and because evil is still in the world, there will be hatred and violence. In fact, it is very likely before the the new year is but a few minutes old there will be sin, hatred, violence and many other tragedies.

And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 21:5-6a)

God is the only one who can make all things new, and keep all things from sin. And God has already accomplished what needs to be done to insure that in the world to come that newness will endure. But right now, it may be a new year, but it is the “old” us. Take heart, beloved reader. God is with us and God is seated on the holy throne. The Lord was there in the beginning, and the Lord will be there at the end of all years. Selah!

CHILD REARING . . . . The end and the beginning of the Christian Life

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. “ (Reference: Colossians 3:20-21 )

It is the last day of the year, beloved. And the last post on Reading the Anabaptist Bible. This collection of scripture has taken us from “Fear of God” through activities of church life such as “Discipleship”, “Baptism”, “Prayer”, “Communion” to pitfalls of life such as “Sin”, “Greed, “Wrath”, “Useless Chatter” to the events of human life such as “Brotherly Rebuke”, “Marriage”, “Human Law”, “Food” and to punishment of not living as God would have us live. Three hundred and sixty-five days of considering how the historic Anabaptists lived and believed. And we end at “Child Rearing”, which is passing on what we have learned in this life to the next generation. This comes as we see the old year passing away and the new year coming. A poetic ending to be sure.

And what of this last verse? Is there some final message we can glean? The writer of Colossians says it is pleasing to the Lord to have children listen and obey their parents. This rests on the premise however that one’s parents have wisdom and experience following and living for God. I hope and pray, beloved, that your parents were/are like this. And if not, that you have found mentors and spiritual parents who have taught you of God and an authentic Christian faith.

This verse also gives a warning to parents (this is advice not only for fathers but mothers too) not to “embitter” their children. In other words, to be the parents that are models for following God and leading an authentic Christian life. Hendrick Alewijns wrote to his children, saying, “Behold, my children, in these holy instructions in correction I acquit myself of my duty towards you; and in all this I admonish you not only in your youth, but also in your riper years, to give ear to the advice of the wise and pious, and always to love the Christians, God’s dear children, the holy church . . . “

It was intention at the beginning of the year to present to you, beloved, as clear picture of what they historic Anabaptists believed, and where that believe may have sprung from. I hope I have done that. But as spring turned into summer and then summer into fall, I found that the historic Anabaptists, while at times squarely addressed some issues relevant to our modern times, were also badly out of step with our modern times. And as the themes grew more grim and stern, I found it harder and harder to support their perspective. Our times differ so radically from theirs, that I think we must look on them as history as opposed to signposts for Christian living. There are good lessons contained in their writings, but in this new century that is almost 15 years old we must forge new ways and understandings.

Five years ago when I finished writing on Reading the Anabaptist Bible, I was anticipating another year of writing posts based on the scripture passages from “Third Way Cafe.” But as you have been aware since soon after Thanksgiving, in 2015 I will be continuing down a different path. It is my hope for the coming year that we can look together at scripture passages and find within them the signposts for a new year, drawing on wisdom from all ages of humanity.

This signals the end of my interlinked relationship with “Third Way Cafe.” It is just you and I now beloved. May God be with us in the new year. Selah!