First, “Thank you!”. We have the saying amongst us at GRUMC, “God is good all the time. And all the time, God is good.” This is very true. Yet, when crisis and chaos, loss, injury, and other such things come our way, that saying can seem a little “flippant” or “trite”. And then again, maybe it is specifically in those times, moments, and experiences, that we should lean into that saying all the more!
So again, Thank you, God, for all your blessings, your faithfulness, your goodness, and your love. Next, Jodel and I wish to say, “Thank you” to each of you – the congregation (and our families and friends beyond GRUMC) for all the cards, gifts, expressions of kindness, but especially – your prayers! We knew Jodel’s hip replacement would not be an easy thing, even with such skilled surgeons and the care from nurses and all the medical staff. But two days into recovery Jodel was diagnosed with A-fib and spent 2 and a half days in the ICU. And all this the week before Christmas – well, to say the least, not an easy 6 days. All your care, meals you brought over, cards, gift cards, phone calls.... We are deeply touched and thankful to be a part of such a caring and loving congregation. So, while not all things are good, nor easy, nor a blessing – God works through and even amid the hard, painful, hurtful, tough times and God’s blessings are not canceled, overcome, or thwarted!
So, Thankfulness begins in acknowledging God’s goodness and the faithfulness of God’s love. In Chapter 8 of the book of Romans, Paul writes, “God works all things for the good.” That doesn’t say or mean that all things are good. No! Bad things are bad and there are moments, events, and experiences that are just that – bad! But the author shares that those things do not finally overcome or thwart God’s purposes! God’s faithfulness and goodness come through despite, or God can use or, as I said, work through the hard and painful times and experiences and still bring blessing and we can still stand on God’s promises of Love and faithfulness.
So, what does this mean for us as we look to the new year? Well... We’re finishing the season of Christmas. Where the very name of the Child King is the promise, “I Am with you”: Emanuel literally means, God -with-us! And we’re reminded of the ascension of Christ where he declares, “Lo, I am with you always...”. I can lean into this promise as I walk into this new year.
The Greek word for God’s love is agape. This is the highest form of love and it’s characteristics are that God’s love in Unlimited, Sacrificial, and Unconditional. Knowing this truth, we realize the empowerment of such love. The possibilities of Christ Commonwealth within the next 365 days can become manifest due to this truth.
And we need not fear. Scripture reminds us (Romans 8 – the very book and chapter I mentioned before) that nothing, NOTHING, can separate us from this unmatchable, unbeatable love! With that truth we can risk much and in so doing achieve much for the cause of Christ! I can think on this simple but timeless truth as I go about my days and my tasks. Slowly those words can begin to strengthen my resolve and focus my frame of mind. If I needed something to help me leave behind or overcome old concerns and look to the “Manger possibilities” of the New Year, this scripture and it’s truth settle it ... the determination to face each day’s concerns, trusting in the words of God’s unlimited and unconditional love and the promise from the Source of all comfort and strength.
May you have a blessed, meaningful, fulfilling, purposeful, assured, grateful, hope-filled, and happy New Year!
Be God’s, Pastor Jim