Message from the Pastor

Rev. Sundar Samuel

Rev. Sundar Samuel

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

A minister wrote in the church newsletter that he was setting goals for the New Year. One of his goals was to clean up his desk. Another of his goals was to find last year’s goals. Some of you keep desks like that…not me, ha ha! Some of you will remember the “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip. In one strip Calvin and Hobbes are talking about the New Year. Calvin says, “I’m getting disillusioned with these New Years. They don’t seem very new at all. Each New Year is just like the old year. Here another year has gone by and everything’s still the same. There’s still pollution, war, stupidity, and greed. Things haven’t changed. I say what kind of future is this. I thought things were supposed to improve. I thought the future was supposed to be better.” Hobbes replies with his usual keen insight, “the problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present.”

The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection. We look back over the year and assess our successes and failures. We gain some satisfaction over our successes, and we experience some grief and guilt over our failures. Each time we face a new beginning. We have hopes that things will be different and better. But as Hobbes says, the future just keeps turning into more of the present.

That may be why some of us come to church in the hopes that the Holy Spirit may fall afresh on us, and the future will be full of exciting new possibilities, positive change, and new growth. We tire of having the “same old, same old.” Two men were talking about one of their colleagues. One said, “did you know he has thirty years of experience in his field?” But his friend’s response was, “Actually, he has not had thirty years of experience. He has had one year of experience thirty times.” The future kept turning into the present for him. This is not God’s plan and will for us.

Listen to our very upbeat lesson from Ephesians 1: 3-6 for this New Year: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For God chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to be God’s children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

What great good news! We are God’s chosen ones. God’s elect. God doesn’t want our lives to be humdrum, meaning less, depressing routines. God wants something better for us than that. That is why there are some things we need to recognize as we begin 2022.

First, we need to see that God loves doing a new thing. That is the exciting thing about knowing God. God loves doing a new thing. You and I are often afraid of change. We long to be able to cling to the status quo. Someone has said that status quo is Latin for “the mess we’re in.” It’s dangerous to stick to the status quo. God loves change, especially changed lives. Resolutions are hard to keep, wouldn’t you agree? How many of you have ever been determined to drop an old habit and begin a new one? How many of you have seen a resolution shattered the same day you made it? Reforming is hard. What we need is not inspiration, but a transformation. Not a resolution, but a revolution. We need a change in our lives that comes from God. What every person needs are something that will permanently affect their life situation. What we need is something that will truly satisfy our longings, something that will bring true and lasting change. Our need is for God to do a new thing within us. And that can happen. God loves doing a new thing. Listen to these wonderful words of the Lord: “The nations will see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62: 2-3).

I am amazed how many people think that God sees only the bad in them. They believe God is more aware of their failure than the good that is in them. They think that God is waiting to find something that they say or do wrong so that God can pounce on them and condemn them. Please know that God is much more concerned over the good in you than the bad. God is much more willing to reward your goodness than to punish your shortcomings. Many times, while we are condemning ourselves, God is trying to help us realize God’s forgiveness.

One more thing we need to realize is that God’s new name for us means a new beginning. It sounds unbelievable, but it seemed unbelievable when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham: “Father of Multitudes.” God made him a father of a nation. Sarai, he called Sarah; “Princess.” What a marvelous and transforming imagination God has. How full of love God’s heart is. How powerful God’s spirit is, to take our failures and give us a future. How marvelous of God to take people who were headed nowhere and use them to fulfill God’s plan for the world.

When people talk about other people, they sometimes say: “that person will always be that way. People never change. They are hopeless.” But God knows better. One of the benefits of being in the ministry is the opportunity to see people change, often quite dramatically. Never underestimate the power of God in your life or anyone else’s.

A New Year is also a suitable time to give other people a new chance. It is a time to also expect the best from them; to realize that with a little help and trust from you they could be different. Give people a chance to begin over again with you. You and I are to forgive those who have hurt us. If we cannot even forgive each other, how can we ever hope to experience the unconditional love and forgiveness of God. God wants something better for us in this New Year than we have experienced in the past. Listen as God gives you a new name for this New Year, and then go out and live as blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, adopted children of God. I wish you and yours and wonderful New Year.

Peace and Grace,

Pastor Sundar