Bishop David Bard asks how we might see this new year as an opportunity to focus forward and to reaffirm that God is working to make all things new…
Looking back over last year, I’ll admit it was difficult and challenging in many ways. War dragged on in Ukraine. The brutal Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, involving rape, killing, and kidnapping, led to a massive Israeli response that has taken thousands of Palestinian lives and created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Gun violence continues to exact a terrible toll in this country, and as the year ended, we witnessed a horrific act of gun violence in Prague. There is a humanitarian crisis at our southern border. In our conference, dealing with disaffiliation and declining budgets took significant time, attention, and energy. In my family, my mom died, and we just celebrated our first Christmas without her. We made the heart-wrenching decision to have our seventeen-year-old dog put down due to her dramatically declining health.
Of course, there were also moments of beauty, kindness, tenderness, grace, and love to note from the past year. I delight in the stories of ministries going well despite the challenges of our day and time and testimonies of churches reaching out in love and service in the name of Jesus Christ. There is great joy in watching our grandchildren learn new words and in seeing their delight as they discover more about the world.
And now we stand at the beginning of a new year. While the simple turning of a calendar page does not mean we leave all the difficulties and challenges of the past year behind, it does offer an opportunity to focus forward and to reaffirm that the God of Jesus Christ is a God who is at work in our lives and in the world making all things new. “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NRSV). “And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new’ ” (Revelation 21:5a). “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Of course, God’s making things new does not simply erase the past and does not end grief, pain, sorrow, or war in the blink of an eye. We carry the past with us. The old year travels into the new one. In the well-known words of the novelist William Faulkner from Requiem for a Nun: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Yet we affirm that God is working to make all things new. God is always doing a new thing — in our lives and in our world. God is always at work, moving toward love and justice, beauty and kindness, peace and reconciliation. And even when things may be outwardly familiar in many ways, God is working on renewal. I think of the words of the poet T.S. Eliot in “Little Gidding”: “With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling / We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”
As we enter this new year, let’s ask how God may work among us and through us to make the world anew. Where might God be inviting us to do new things in the furtherance of justice, kindness, peace, and reconciliation? How might we be more attentive to how God is making each of us new, renewing us in love and gentleness? In what new ways may God be inviting and empowering us to share the good news of the gospel with a world in need of God’s love in Jesus Christ? While we carry the past with us, we need not be imprisoned by it. The turning of a new year is a good time to focus forward, and I am eager to engage in that work with you.