God has called us by name and we are his
January 8, 2022
Grace Episcopal Church (Nampa, Idaho)
I have a confession. I have never liked or even understood celebrating the end of one year and the beginning of another. Part of my apathy or even antipathy, lies in the fact that I’m just not a party person. Alcohol just makes me sleepy and there’s only so much light-hearted banter I can bear. I’m a New Year’s curmudgeon and that’s a fact!
This year, however, I can sympathize with so many who are hoping, even praying, that, somehow we can leave behind us all that made 2021 so challenging. The problem is, we can’t just wrap up the offending old year in newspapers and deposit it in the trash bin. A new year isn’t delivered in an Amazon box, just waiting for each of us to unwrap its wonders. What a new year is, as well as I can discern, is the opportunity for each of us to decide how we might go forward differently.
In the Church we call this “repenting”. To repent is to change one’s mind or heart and therefore, to change one’s behavior. It is, literally, to go another direction. If 2021 left us unsatisfied and confused, then how will we do 2022 differently? 2022, or any year, will not simply present us with a different life, a different experience. We shape the year ahead. It will be a year of courage and hope or a year of confusion and separation, depending on how we choose to act, how we choose to respond to events. We are not stones on the beach at the mercy of the rain and the wind and the tides. We are human beings with agency.
With this in mind, the Church in its wisdom, begins the new year, the First Sunday after the Epiphany, with the renewal of baptismal vows. We journey with Jesus to the Jordon and watch as he is baptized by John. Why is he there? Scholars have speculated throughout the ages. I suspect that Jesus was there for the same reason I invite each of you to be there tomorrow. Before we set out on a new path, we need to remember who we are and where we are going.
We do that, as Christians, with the renewal of our baptismal vows. We remember who God is and whose we are. We remember what is essential, what sets the boundary stones of our lives and intensions---love God, love one another, walk humbly together, forgive one another, encourage one another, honor one another. We remember that which has no place in our lives---judgement, condemnation, unforgiveness, arrogance. We remember our purpose, to serve God and one another. We come, as it were, to reset our compass so that we may boldly stride forth on this new path Christ has set before us.
2021 was not an easy year. I suspect that 2022 may even be more challenging, but it is a challenge that we are equipped to face. It is a new year! It is God’s new year. God has called us by name and we are his!