Looking to 2017 in Faith

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  December 31, 2016

            It is very likely that 2016 will go down in history as a truly remarkable year. Some may see the remarkable character of the last 12 months vastly different than others. Many will quickly chalk this year up to being one of the worst ever, while others will celebrate the events of the year as wonderful. As people of faith, it is important that we set aside the triumphs and disappointments of the past 12 months and make a genuine effort to seek out, and live, a Christian perspective as we turn the calendar and approach a new year.
            The most constant reality of 2016 was one of change. This past year exemplified a tremendous amount of change. From technological innovations and sociological transformation, to a whole host of religious and political assumptions, there is no escaping the reality that the world we thought we knew a year ago looks nothing like the world we are inheriting tonight at midnight.
            On this New Year’s Eve, as the world prepares to enter a year that will likely be unlike any that we could have ever imagined, it is vital that the Christians approach the tumultuous change with the wisdom of Christ as reviled in Scripture. Although there are many models of faith and action recorded in the pages of the Bible, on this day, the 21st Chapter of John is particularly compelling. In this final chapter of John’s epic narrative of Jesus Christ, four very powerful examples of faithful living for an uncertain future are revealed.
            First, we learn that the old ways of doing things are no longer relevant. Jesus demonstrates this when he instructs the frustrated disciples that they need to cast their nets along the other side of the boat. At first it seems a ludicrous suggestion. Yet, the faithful willingness to do things Christ’s way, rather than the way they have always done them or the ways that conventional wisdom dictates, makes all the difference in the world. In a world of change, the church is often afraid to cast nets on the other side, but change necessitates that we break with the past and embrace Christ’s call for a new—and different—future.
            Second, we learn that those whom we uphold as leaders must model leadership through service. Jesus was the risen Son of God. No human leader—past, present, or future—can come close to his stature. Yet Jesus chose to serve breakfast to his followers and guide them in love. Rather than secure anything for himself or simply use his authority to rule over them, Jesus took care of the disciples at the most basic level. He gave them food and nourishment, wisdom and guidance. Every legitimate leader in 2017 must do the same.
            Third, all who profess to love Jesus Christ must live that love in caring for, feeding, and tending the sheep of the world. By virtue of our shared creation in the Divine Image, all humanity falls under the broad description of being God’s people—even those who do not believe in, or have a present relationship with, Christ. The job of the faithful is not so much to win them over to our version of Christianity or to dictate to them how they must live, but to feed, tend, and care for all the people who inhabit God’s creation.
            Fourth, serving God will not necessarily win Christians favor with the power structures and ways of the world. Ours is a call to do things God’s way and when that means that we must go against the ways of the secular world, it is our greater love for Christ that must prevail.
            2017 has the potential to be a great year for Christ and all Christians. It must begin by living as Christ would have us live. We are to break from the past, serve others, and stick with God. Anything less will give the New Year over to sinful debauchery, idolatry, and destruction.