What a year. This is not a trip down memory lane. Sure, I got married this year, but I really can't remember all the other important things that happened. But while I close the door on this year, I have a question for you and for me...
Are you closer to God than you were at the beginning of 2008?
No doubt we are different. Things have changed. This world certainly doesn't look the same, but it doesn't take a whole year to change our perspectives. That could happen in a single 24 hour period. But you've had a whole year now to grow with Christ. Are you different? There are three reasons I ask that question...
- Christianity is about change. Obama might have the slogan right, but I'm not talking politics here. All the religion, all the prayers, all the sacrifice, is worth nothing if there isn't a change. How much did you change in 2008? Did you defeat your greatest habit? Goof up big time and backslide? Did you defeat a new enemy that crept into your life? Maybe you sustained a level of peace and happiness you haven't had before. Maybe life threw you a curveball and you just learned how to strike back. Maybe through malaise you crept back into your former life little by little. But as I look at at the past year... have I changed for the better? I believe Christianity, as a whole, has changed for the better. But me personally? hmmmm.
- As great as God might be, I hear a murmuring of discontent within my Church. Strangly, it isn't from the new Christians. Its from the ones who have been around a while. Its also from the leadership. Perhaps I've grown attuned to the soft whispers or perhaps I've been around long enough to see things differently. But we remind ourselves constantly, that the UMC must adapt or die. I'm not saying God will ever die. Surely God is bigger than our meager attempts at Christianity in this nation. As an aside, I do believe how we do church, the way we know Jesus, will change/grow/die as the world changes. Thankfully, he doesn't change. But the UMC is SO aware of our own mortality that there are tones of desparation. Remember that book I said I was going to read? Rob Bell's Jesus Wants to Save Christians. Yeah, it is really pertinent right now. Its making the point that in the Biblical story, Egypt is the Empire. You know the story, right? Israelites cry out from opression, God saves them, makes them holy, Israel goes astray, becomes its own Empire, they get destroyed, God saves them, makes them holy, etc.etc.etc. Its a big cycle. Today, maybe the United States is the Empire, and we are groaning under our oppression. Because God always hears the oppressed. This is a good thing - and you thought this would be a depressing point?
- I'm a preacher so I need three points - but seriously, the Holy Spirit isn't done with us yet. I know there are great things ahead of us in 2009. I'm excited because of the young Christians who are feeling a tug on their lives. I'm excited because we are stripping off the wealth, excess, misguided notions of what it means to be alive and all that will be left is light.
I'm excited because you and I will get more time to get it right. And happy new year.