The Rev. Scott Hearn
Welcome to 2018, a time of taking stock and asking: How are things going in my life, really? Which can lead to a time for fresh starts and new beginnings. It’s the time of year you can read about endless ways to be happier, healthier and wealthier.
But was there anything significant about last Monday really? If you lived without a calendar you would not have noticed anything different.
The earliest recorded festivals recognizing the beginning of a new year date back 4,000 years to the Babylonians. Egyptians began their new year with the annual flooding of the Nile. But in 46 BC Julius Caesar put in place a new calendar that began on January 1 and the rest, they say, is history.
But why the recognition of a new year? I think it’s in us to have rites of passage of “wiping the slate clean.” The New Year is a chance to confess our shortcomings and sin before God and ask him to remove them which he promises to do. It’s also a chance to commit to God the next year, asking him to lead, guide and direct all that we do.
But how do we commit and entire year to God? Is there really such a thing as “tomorrow?” Or “today” for that matter?
These are really just concepts, not realities. The only day that really exists is today. How do we commit today to God?
There’s a wonderful account of a battle between the Israelite army and the Philistines documented in 1 Chronicles 14. Newly coronated King David is facing his country’s arch nemesis in the Valley of Rephaim located just west of Jerusalem. King David inquired of God, “Should I go up against the Philistines? Will you be with me and give them into my hand?” So David leads his army out against them and they strike down the Philistines.
Later the Philistines make a raid on the same valley. King David inquired of God again. This time God says not to go up after them, instead, go around and come up against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, go out to battle. Once again David did as God commanded and again he and his army struck them down.
David chose to inquire of God each time he faced his enemy, even the same enemy in the same location. He didn’t presume he knew how God would lead him. Because he sought God’s direction in each battle, he was victorious in both of them.
You and I cannot dedicate the entire coming year to God, but we can dedicate each day of the year to him as it comes.
Jim Denison said, “the key to knowing his present-tense will is present-tense surrender to his will. Sign a blank check and let God fill in the amount. Give him each day as it comes, trusting him to lead and use you as he wishes.”
I pray 2018 will be your best year yet and leave each of the 365 days in the hands of a God who loves you, is for you and desires the best for you.
The Rev. Scott Hearn is the senior pastor at Gainesville First United Methodist Church in Gainesville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.