Where I live, all the clergy in our community rotate writing an article for the religion section of the local newspaper. I wanted to share my latest article here with you in case you don't subscribe to the Keith County News.
“Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew, it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.” John 3:3 CEB
As we enter a new year, it’s tempting to talk about new year resolutions and the many ways in which we fail to keep them. But for me, the new year is a reminder of the new beginning and the new life offered to us by Jesus. Our new life in Jesus isn’t a fad. It isn’t a diet, a program, or a self-help regiment promoted during the new year to line shareholder pockets; it’s a new way of life. In fact, did you know that the early disciples of Jesus didn't call themselves Christian, but instead, they called themselves followers of the way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22)? Jesus spoke of himself as "the way the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Following Jesus is a new way of being in the world, and through Christ, we are a new creation.
For many of us, January 8th marked Baptism of the Lord Sunday where we explored and remembered John baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River. On this day, it is tradition to remember our baptism and recommit to following in the Way. Though there are many different theological understandings of baptism between faith traditions, one of the things I believe it represents for all of us is being born again into a new life in Jesus Christ. Passing through the waters of baptism represents the washing away of the old so we can put on the new.
One of the most common new year's resolutions is to go on a diet, especially after all the holiday sweets (I know I certainly need to). The problem with diets is that once you lose all the weight, it's so easy to gain it all back unless, as many nutritionists like to say, you make it a way of life. The same is true of our discipleship. Unless we make Jesus the center of our lives, unless we make Jesus' way our way, unless Jesus becomes our way and our truth and our life, then we will never be all that God has called us to be.
I think another reason new year's resolutions don't work is that they often feel like a burden. For some, being a Christian might seem like a burden as well; do this, don't do that. But I don't see it that way. Being a follower of Christ isn't about dos and don'ts, it's about responding to the love that God has freely and abundantly poured into our hearts. We respond to the love of God by centering ourselves in that love and sharing it with the world. Jesus feed the hungry, ate with sinners, showed compassion to those who the world saw as less than, and offered healing of the body, mind, and soul. The salvation Jesus offers us is more than just life after death, it's also new life for the here and now.
So I pray that in this new year, you will find in Jesus a new you, a new way, a new life. Amen.