Week of – First Sunday After Christmas / New Year’s Day / Holy Name of Jesus Day; A Exhortation to take into the New Year

The lectionary for New’s Day references the book of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verses 1 to 13, but those last five are kind of a downer, so I am not using them. I have been very diligent most of the time using all the verses, but this time I want to emphasis the “time” and how it apportioned to us.

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)

And the times we are living in call for strength and fortitude; but I do not say “more” because that implies, and then negates, what our forebearers both generational and spiritual have gone through. Another important consideration is what we do with our time. The writer of Ecclesiastes talks about time do things I would not do, nor advocate that others do. If we spend our time and energy doing negatives, we will have nothing left to do the positives in life. And it is humanity, as a global community that can comfort the grieving, heal the wounds that have been inflicted, mend what has been torn apart, and counter the hate and war in our world. We have been equipped for this by our Lord God.

“O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

In this New Year may we heed the call of our Lord and call others to the Lord so that the world might be reformed according to the law of love that was taught to us by Christ Jesus. Selah!

Advertisements

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!

On Either Side of the River

“On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22: 2b from Revelation 21:1-22:5 )

Today is the last day of the year, and the last day that this blog focuses on right relationships, justice, and shalom – or at least in a concentrated way. I am sure in 2014 we will touch on the same sort of issues; dealing rightly and fairly with each other and promoting God’s peace. But in 2014 we will be looking at verses that the historic Anabaptists used. C. Arnold Snyder’s book, Reading the Anabaptist Bible is the source of these verses, and five years ago when “Sip of Scripture” last used these verses, Arnold was generous enough to provide me with a copy of the book. I will be drawing on that same resource for 2014. But back to the verse for today.

Thinking about healing of the nations and moving from the old year into the new year, I was struck by the “either side” notion, and the image of the tree of life bridging from one side to the other. The concept of bridge building is a good one when one thinks about moving from the old to the new, and for changing one way of being for another. Those who were enemies are now friends, and we have “bridged” the gap that separated us. Because we have moved over and beyond what separated us, we can now dwell as friends. This is as relevant and possible a concept for individuals as it is for nations. In fact, if nations can bridge over and get past what separated them, it is more likely that individuals in the nation will make that positive movement too. BUT then the nation needs to bridge and move past what separates the entities within it, and unfortunately gentle reader we do not seem to do well at that.

So I must ask myself, and I ask you, has this past year made a difference in your life? Has the focus of right relationships, justice, and shalom helped you or refocused, or even changed your thinking? Has it made a difference? I do not assume or pretend to think that solely what I have written has made a change in you; what I hope instead is that as you have read what I have written God has spoken to you and fostered and nourished your thinking. If that has been the case, then I am content.

There are many things I wish and hope for myself in the new year, and I hope and pray that God will bless you with what you need for the new year. I am excited about what God will reveal to me in the coming year through the verses that the historic Anabaptists used, and I would be honored if you journey with me this coming year.

May your year end sum up all that was good this year, and dispel all that was not good. And may the new year find you ever closer to God, and ever closer to those around you. Selah!