Sisters and Brothers,
Another year has gone by, a year like no other. Our wildest imaginations could not have prepared us for the events that we lived through during the past year, and yet, through grace, we have had passage through COVID-19 and more and have arrived at 2021. A Blessed New Year to you; and may the rich blessings of our God continue to be our experience this year.
If we have learnt well, we certainly recognise that life is God’s gift to be valued. And we can show that we place value on our lives by taking care of ourselves in the different dimensions of life – seeing to our physical, emotional and mental health as well as that of others (especially in the continuing COVID era); celebrating the social aspects of our life together ( even when virtual reality takes over) and engaging in helpful political activity ( as lockdown has shown us more of what we can and must change); nurturing our spiritual life and enriching that of others (for only in grace we do survive); and so on… Life is valuable! Let us treat it that way. Right living together is our best way of saying thank you to our Life-Giver.
While we may be hoping and praying to return to our communal gatherings, meeting together physically for worship and fellowship, let us resolve not to ignore the lessons we learnt during the 2020 pandemic. We need each other to survive. Our mistakes harm others, and not just ourselves. We have learned the importance of small gestures that show we care. We have found ways to communicate our loving concern even when we could not be together in the same space.
Let us not forget the valuable lessons learnt. Let us not expect to go “back to normal” if normal means not making the effort to show each other that we care, to communicate our love, concern, and respect for the other persons whom we had probably taken for granted. If “normal” means going about our own way in small selfish circles, without deep regard for those whom we tended to forget, then God forbid that we should go back there!
What this means, is that when we do congregate again, our coming together must bring warmth. Those who join us must feel special and welcome for being among us. Let it be said again that Methodists are “people of the warmed heart”. For when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, it warms those around us. Our encounters with others can be avenues through which they come to see God’s love alive in humans. Let us show thanks for our survival to 2020 by showing more people what it means to know God personally.
Indeed, we can give real meaning to what we sing when we renew our covenant with God this year, praising the One “who kindly lengthens out our days” whose “providence has brought us through another [truly] various year”, when we let the following be our motto
“Our lips and lives shall gladly show
The wonders of thy love,
While on in Jesus’ steps we go
To see thy face above”.
And we make Charles Wesley’s prayer our very own:
Our residue of days or hours
Thine, wholly thine, shall be,
And all our consecrated powers
A sacrifice to thee.
Charles Wesley, 1707-1788, VIP# 503
May the Lord’s name be praised even in and through us.
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor