“Teaching Our Faith: Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man” takes a look at this favorite children’s Bible song. But when we remember who Zacchaeus was and what happens in this Biblical story, we begin to understand that this is more than a song for children, it is a song for all of us!
A very long time ago, people looked around at the world and concluded that life runs in cycles. They saw, rightfully, that seasons come and go—from rain to dry, from hot to cold, from animal births in spring to harvests in fall; from long days in summer to short ones in winter. People in ancient days assumed that life was the same, over and over again, and that nothing new ever truly occurred.
The witness of the Bible suggests a different view. It’s not just that the Creator God seeks to restore life for and through a faithful, trusting people. It’s also that this promised “salvation”—healing—stimulates something new. Both Isaiah and Revelation reflect some hints of this awareness—that God is active in this world; that God works with what is here yet calls for “a new thing;” that being followers of Jesus involves us with divine opportunities that we could not have imagined otherwise.
So, each January signals something familiar and stable while also, at the same time, something possible and inviting. Life does need some degree of routine, but it goes subtlely stale if we don’t give attention to God’s Spirit. Our Christian hope is driven by the conviction that the Holy Spirit offers change that moves us more fully into God’s purposes.
How might 2017 be a year in which God’s hopes for this world find fresh expression in First Presbyterian Church? A new class of elders joins the Session this month. A new pastor is somewhere on the horizon. Hurricane Matthew left many residents in Columbus and nearby counties struggling to meet basic needs. Whiteville seeks a renewed economic base. Terrorist acts at home and abroad aim to create a climate of fear.
What’s new? Let’s find out together—as we join hearts and hands in 2017, to follow God into this next future. Let’s do it because we dare to follow Jesus.
New Year’s blessings,
Those of you who have raised children—and/or now have grandchildren—are familiar with the refrain, “Are we there yet?” Even a short road trip can become an annoying trial, if the kids in the car keep asking that dreaded question. It can get to the point where, even if we think we know the answer, we don’t want to say so: who knows what might happen in the intervening period of time?
Christians have a version of this phenomenon in our traditions—with a twist. It is known as “Advent,” but instead of constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” Christians are invited to lean into the waiting. For four Sundays before Christmas Day, Christians reflect on what it means to our lives that we wait for the birth of Jesus.
In the Bible, the question that often gets asked is, “How long, O Lord?” We are in good company with our spiritual ancestors when we wonder about the time it might take before something for which we wait will arrive. Five hundred years went by between the Jews’ return from exile and the birth of Jesus—five hundred years! Several times, the Psalmist laments with this pleading question, “How long, O Lord?”
The fall campaign, “OUR NEXT CHAPTER!” sought to emphasize how waiting can be helpful. We know that Jesus has been born. We know that, when the moment is ready, the Pastor Nominating Committee will present to the congregation a candidate for pastor. We know that the congregation’s vision is faithful to God’s call and a compelling guide to life and ministry.
In light of all these things, I invite you in this Advent season to live each day to its full. See if you can slow down enough to ponder, not “when,” but “what.” What would God have you to do today? How can your actions and prayers today help you to live in hope and love? What can you do to support the Session and Pastor Nominating Committee?
I will admit that I have never liked waiting times, and perhaps you don’t, either. But waiting is part of our faith—and Advent is here to help us live into it.
Blessings to you in this season!