Facing a new year always generates conflicting feelings within me. I hope that this is not unusual for pastors. Of course, anticipating ministry creates a sense of eager enthusiasm as Fellowship Covenant and I wonder what the Lord has in store for us in 2013. Yet, along with the anticipation, I sense a wispy cloud of melancholy. The older I get, the more I surrender to the reality that much more of life happens to us than we make happen.
How can “Epiphany” help us see the new year?
When I was younger, I had a driving energy riveted to a clear vision and pastoral passion and I was going “to be a history-maker in this land.” While multiple interpretations swirled around Matthew 11:12, I took it to mean that a passionate force was required to advance the kingdom of God. I was wrong (about the meaning), but it fit my attitude at the time. No place for laziness or que sera, sera in the Lord’s work. I now gaze into the future unknown and do not pray Carpe Diem! Now, I whisper, “Lord, seize me. Please!”
We find different tools to launch us off the starting block of a new year. For pastors, it is usually books. I used to revel in getting a new commentary or two and being intellectually challenged as well as spiritually energized. I always have loved the opening sentence in the Preface to the multi-volume NIDNTT, “Bury yourself in a dictionary and come up in the face of God.” I have never liked devotional pabulum (though some are nourished by it). A diligent scholar who brings me into a wrestling match with the words, history, culture, etc. of a biblical book causes my heart to catch fire. Some of my family members still shoot me strange expressions when I do a sudden fist pump and shout, “Yeeaaaah!” When they realize I’m reading an exegetical commentary they appear ready to cart me off to a shrink. Some pastors broaden their reading to a new book by a favorite author—Annie Dillard, Pat Conroy—or a classic author—St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila—or a popular author—John Grisham, Kathryn Stockett.
Join me. Fast forward through the Gospel story. Was Jesus’ ministry determined by people’s needs? Was it limited by budget constraints? Did it contain a benefit package and a personal parking place? Was he surrounded by sharp people who “got it”—the vision, values, and objectives? Can a person really live off “the will of God”?
I think a good New Year’s resolution is: I would like to get to know Jesus better this year. I think I need to hear again, “Do you love Me?” and “Care for My sheep.”