It’s a new year, 2016! A symbolic new beginning where the slate is wiped clean and we start anew. Some of us anticipate wonderful things happening—a wedding, the birth of a baby, a new job or home, going to college, graduating, retiring—and the list goes on.
Others of us are not as excited about the new year. We have lost someone we loved and they are not part of our daily lives any longer. We face illness, either within our own bodies or in others. We are disappointed to the point of grieving over the decisions or actions of people we have loved and trusted. We feel defeated and lost—wondering where we will go, or feeling anger and fear or grave frustration over personal, political, or even church-related matters.
So what is going to happen? The amazing thing is, we don’t know. Plans have a way of changing. Life has a way of turning corners we never expected or assumed. Good news and bad news comes as a surprise and we realize that forces beyond us are in control, and it is not all up to us.
Thank God, it is not all up to us. Thank God it is God who is in control and will lead us through the hills and valleys of life in ways that can bring peace to our minds and hearts if we but allow God in our lives.
As Moderator of the 221st General Assembly (2014) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I am reminded daily of God’s influence and involvement in our denomination. If I am honest there are times I wonder about God’s choices. But there is a difference in wondering and doubting. I do not doubt God’s intentions. I know we are loved more than we can possibly believe, and that God is working a plan that may not always fit with my understanding of plans. But I know God is right, not me.
How I wish each person in our denomination and beyond could have had the experiences I had in 2015. Though I have seen some who are in pain and experiencing angst, I have seen many more that have come to a peace in understanding that new options and directions can bring peace and calm in ways that they (and I) never expected.
I have seen our church bodies on the local, presbytery, synod, and national level come to understand that it is a new day for us, and that God is in control. I have seen Christians in China and Taiwan, in Ethiopia and South Sudan, in Mexico and across our nation who are filled with a zeal for Christian love that extends beyond any of life’s joys or sorrows.
Within the PC(USA) I have seen some wonderful people and congregations choose to separate themselves from our communion, and it has made me very sad. But I also have seen many others who disagree choose to find ways to work together, to seek new understandings on how to be a family in spite of our differences, and to offer examples of God’s grace to one another. And in those encounters, I have watched Jesus at work—the Jesus who taught us the Golden Rule, the Jesus who taught us about unconditional love, the Jesus who was willing to give His life for us because He loves us so much.
May we enter 2016 with a renewed commitment to live like Jesus. May we find ways to feed the hungry, offer comfort to the homeless (regardless of their homeland or race or religious preference). May we realize that the peace we all seek can only begin within our individual hearts, and strive to serve as models of this love. Peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, compassion, justice, grace, faith—these are the trademarks of Presbyterians in the PC(USA). May we wear them boldly in this new year!