A Message from Pastor Harvey
The New Year is upon us. Will this be a yippee kai yay or a bah humbug? Why is the New Year the day to consider whether auld acquaintance should be forgot and never brought to mind? Shouldn’t we be remembering old friends every day of the year?
The truth is I am not a sentimental person, for the most part. Growing up, my own birthday, July 18, was not a special day. Unless it fell on a Sunday, I spent the day driving a farm tractor and that was it. (Ok, there was usually a cake. My parents were not monsters.)
But New Years? It is just a day. In fact, the Winter Solstice has more significance as the point in the solar calendar when the days start to lengthen and darkness decreases. But New Years? It seems an arbitrary date. And yet, I can’t help myself from feeling hopeful each New Years. It is irrational, of course.
I am optimistic about the future, I suppose. This comes from trusting God. I have little reason otherwise to be optimistic about each New Year. In all other cases, I am not a “glass half full” kind of guy. Neither am I a pessimist or “glass half empty” person. I am a pragmatist. The glass is twice as large as it needs to be.
But each year, at the New Years beginning, I make resolutions and I am optimistic and even excited to see the new future. Again, I say this is irrational, but it does seem that each New Year brings the opportunity to begin again and attempt to make the future better. This is why some people make New Year’s Resolutions. This is why we celebrate the New Year.
The idea that we can begin again and try something new and leave the old mistakes and failures behind is good for us. And my point is that this once-a-year thing that happens at the New Year, is what happens every day with God’s forgiveness. I’m not necessarily talking about forgiveness of individual moral failures, although this is included. I’m talking about having a day (or days) of frustration, failure, or less than desired outcomes. This also is sin because it is brokenness and missing the mark. And it is from all of these that I constantly need “do overs.”
God’s daily (or by the minute) forgiveness says you can start over and try again. You don’t have to wait for the New Year. And, more importantly, your worth is not related to the outcomes of your day. God’s love is unconditional, meaning God loves you even in, and perhaps especially in, your mistakes, failures and shortcomings. I’m reminded of this because I watch my grandson and I my heart goes out to him especially when he is making bad choices and struggling to behave.
The Greek word to forgive doesn’t mean just to stop being angry and resentful toward a person who has harmed you. It means to send away (from even your memory) the instance of the debt owed, or the trespass or injury caused by another. This is what God does in forgiveness so that each day you are free to start again – free from the weight of past mistakes.
Father Richard Rohr writes, “Instead of nurturing awe (of God), reconnection, and awakening, I’m sorry to say that today we have a lot of ideological (theological) hysteria and junk religion. Junk religion is similar to junk food because it only satisfies enough to gratify the momentary desire but does not really feed the intellect or the heart. Junk religion is usually characterized by fear of the present and fear of the future. What we experience when people have really met God is that there is no fear of the present… There’s no fear of the future because a loving God is in charge. There’s no fear of the past because it has been healed and forgiven. Then people do not use God to avoid reality or to fabricate a private, self-serving reality. They let God lead them into the fullness of Reality; not away from dilemmas and paradoxes, but right onto the horns of the human dilemma (sin/brokenness/falling short/being imperfect/the unknown future and even death)!
Whatever reconstruction (transformation) we’re going to do cannot be based on fear or on reaction. It has to be based on a positive and fully human experience of God as a loving Presence. True religion is ready to let God be God, and to let God lead us into a new future that we do not yet understand—and no longer even need to understand.” (Within this quote from Father Rohr, the italics are my comments.)
This trust in God and God’s sending away of my sins, and my willingness to let God be God, is why I can begin the New Year, and each new day, with joy and optimism and without fear.
To all, a Brighteous Epiphany (may God shed God’s light on God’s revealing of God’s self to us).