+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: 1 Peter 1:22-25
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
The blessings of God do not diminish with the passing of time. Mortals must find their renewal in Him or they won’t find it at all. Citing the prophet Isaiah St. Peter addresses believers with these words, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.”1 This proclamation stands as a timeless call to repentance and publication of the gospel of eternal salvation. Times change. People change. The old year has come to a close. The new year is beginning. The events of our lives span the full range of experiences. We enjoy prosperity, endure tragedy, we experience joy and sorrow. Our capacities decline; sometimes gradually, other times suddenly. And in the past year a number of saints among us have reached their mortality. But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”2 Thanks be to God! His mercies are new every morning.”3
Maybe you have some New Year’s resolutions? Maybe there are bad habits you’d like to eliminate or good ones you’d like to cultivate? Or perhaps there are people in your life who’d be happy to make some resolutions for you? Consider the pastor who made this announcement the Sunday before daylight savings was to change again, “For those of you in the habit of showing up 15 minutes late for church remember to turn your clocks back 45 minutes.”
Or, what about this one? The phone rings at the church office. "Hello, is this Pastor Smith?" The caller asked. "It is." "This is the Australian Tax Office. We were wondering if you can help us." "I'll try." "Do you know a man named William Beecham?" "I do." "Is this man a member of your congregation." "He is." "Did he donate $5,000?" "He will." Oh, dear friends, imagine the strife if we were allowed to make New Year’s resolutions for others! Times change and people do change but if we think we have the power to change others we’d better pause to reflect on both our motivations and our limitations.
Well, the beginning of a new year is a good time to re-evaluate our priorities. It doesn’t matter how many years pass, the central reality for humanity is still the same: Nobody goes from here to the presence of God in the next life- called heaven- under their own authority. It’s one of the most basic truths of Christianity and you’ve heard it time and time again. Still, it can never be assumed and can never be taken for granted for this one powerful reason: Humans do not easily or readily believe that sin is such a serious catastrophe. And therefore, they do not easily believe the truth of the gospel. In fact, on both accounts the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit is required. Remember, when we pray in the Lord’s Prayer that God’s kingdom would come, we are praying that God would give us a rich measure of His Holy Spirit so that His kingdom would be extended and strengthened through the creation and nurture of faith. Christianity in the West is facing strong head winds. The trend is likely to continue in 2019.
It is said there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, or a fox (apparently), but there is no other way to tackle the problem of sin, defeat the schemes of Satan, or overthrow the authority of death. Remember the narrative of Christmas, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts…”4 And the Scripture says, “God has given us eternal life, and the life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”5 Fortunately, the gospel doesn’t fade with time. The truth of God’s word doesn’t age or become obsolete. Each generation of people that are born are just as stubborn and self-centred as the last. But God is up to the task. The Holy Spirit is ageless, like the Son. The fury of hell and the devil’s machinations are no match for His purity and His power.
So, what will the new calendar year hold for you? Do you have great expectations or niggling doubts? Do you consider yourself to be an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist? And by whose standards? In Christ, we start the year with transparency. He wants no pretend sinners with imaginary sins. Don’t try to fool yourself. You certainly can’t fool Him. But He also wants you to know that you are a genuine saint, His baptized. He feeds you with His own flesh and blood- real food. He gives you His Spirit and attends to you with His holy word.
And what might be the special focus of your prayers as we move into the new year? Will you be praying for better health, stronger relationships, a godlier marriage? Will you pray candidly about yourself, that the Holy Spirit would truly reveal to you those areas in which you’re myopic? Will you be praying that someone who has wandered from the faith will be brought back into the fold? The Good Shepherd never stops seeking His lost sheep. And then are you prepared to be a patient resources to that end?
Perhaps in the new year you’ll gain a more sober and honest perspective on your own mortality? The advent Christ hasn’t left us either. He promises to come again.
A priest and a pastor were standing by the side of a road holding up a sign that read “The end is near! Turn around now before it’s too late!”
A passing driver yelled, “You guys are crazy!” and sped past them. From around the curve, they hear screeching tires—then a big splash.
The priest turned to the pastor and says, “Do you think we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’ instead?
Dear friends, Jesus Christ, the One who was and who is and who is to come, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End is our Redeemer. He may come again at any time, but with Him the bridge is never out. He spans the distance between heaven and earth. He allows us to traverse the abyss of hell. He is the way and the truth and the life. He is the ladder to heaven upon which the angels ascend and descend. He is our portal to eternity. This Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the grave for you and for your salvation.
As the peace of Christmas continues to fill your hearts, may the joy of Easter loom large on your horizons. “The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that we preached to you.”6 This good news tells you the New Year begins with Christ’s forgiveness. He has wiped the slate clean. Regardless or your age, your condition, or your circumstance, He gives you new life. We face the future knowing Him who holds the future. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
New Year’s Eve
31 December 2018
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 1 Peter 1:24
2 Hebrews 13:8
3 See Lamentations 3:22-23
4 Galatians 4:4-6
5 1 John 5:11-12
6 1 Peter 1:24-25