By Rev. Nancy J. Adams, Owego United Methodist Church
Happy New Year! I realize that that might be a strange greeting to hear after we find ourselves two months into 2024. I won’t ask you about your New Year’s resolutions if you don’t ask me about mine.
The good news is that God doesn’t give up on us and that God is making all things new. Does that sound like good news? Or does it just sound like wishful thinking?
Some people enter into the New Year with great hope and expectation, while for others it may be anticipating another year of dread. For some who had a rough 2023 they are only hoping that 2024 will be better. For others, it’s just “same old, same old.” Nothing ever changes.
Have I hit where you live yet? We certainly don’t all have the same experience, but we can look ahead with joyful anticipation, because even in the midst of heartache and struggle, God is worthy of our trust. While I realize that may sound like yet another platitude, it is true, nonetheless.
As we move into the New Year, let’s think about the word “new.” “Newness” is pervasive throughout Scripture.
Lamentations 3:22-23 promises that new every morning are God’s mercies.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 shows God making a new covenant, this time written not on tablets of stone, but on people’s hearts.
In Isaiah, 43:18-19 offers these encouraging words, “Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
In Matthew 26:28, instituting the Lord’s Supper, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which harkens back to the Jeremiah passage.
In II Corinthians 5:17, we are told that those who are in Christ are new creations.
In Revelation 21 we read of a new heaven and a new earth, and the promise that our Lord makes all things new.
Have you detected a theme yet? Friends, let’s not fall in the trap of going back to “same old, same old,” this New Year. It is certainly more comfortable to continue with what we know, but what if God is calling us to something new?
My parishioners have often heard me say that God never, never, never, never calls us to the status quo. We can count on the fact that God is always calling us to something new.
Are we willing to follow through with whatever God is calling us to? Are we listening? How can we know what God is calling us to? Of course, our eyes, ears, hearts, and minds need to be open, but again, how do we know what God is calling us to do?
The theological word for this is discernment. Some tools of discernment are, not surprisingly, individual prayer, Bible study, worship, and prayer, Bible study, and worship with trusted, mature Christians.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, used what has since been called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” although Wesley never used that term. You may remember from Math class that a quadrilateral is a shape with four sides.
There are four sides or more accurately, components, as tools for discernment that Wesley used: scripture, tradition, experience, and reason. Wesley was clear that these four criteria are not equal, strongly declaring that scripture carries the most weight. Scripture can speak to tradition, experience and reason, and tradition, experience and reason can speak to our interpretation of scripture. Again, scripture is primary, and all must be bathed in prayer.
New adventures can be scary – and new adventures can be wonderful and exciting. God promises to be with us through whatever we face, which I have found to be true, again, and again, and again.
God is not done with us, and is always calling us to the newness of life in Jesus Christ. May we bask in the newness that is offered to us by our Lord! Let us risk boldly in 2024. Our Lord is making all things new. Hallelujah!