Pastoral Ponderings— Reflections
How do you start your new year? A lot of people TALK about New Year’s Resolutions—whether they follow through or not is another story! I’ve been hearing more about “New Year’s INTENTIONS” in recent years, with people tired of failing at resolutions, trying to shift to more of a goal than the commitment a resolution entails (might that be related to our emerging cultural aversion to commitments in general?). Those have never been my thing, but I have often been one for New Year’s Reflections—pondering the past year, the coming year, things personal, relational, social and professional—all of the above. As a part of these reflections, I often explore thoughts of others as well as they try to look through the fog into the year to come.
Such reflections in recent years have often been COVID related—and to some extent still are, as we are STILL moving into the changes wrought by the pandemic—or pandemics, if you include the concurrent “pandemics” of socio-political polarization and racism. Makes you wonder where the Good News is these days.
Jesus Himself said there would always be wars and rumors of wars, poverty and oppression—never a shortage of BAD news in some form or other. If we’re not careful, our reflections can get stuck on the negative, which makes His Good News all the more important, since it can be such a struggle to find good news in the more mundane world! Jesus’ Good News isn’t even about the Church—which all too often is itself the source of too much polarization and crisis.
Our society is always going through a lot of changes—often sped up or made worse by major crisis like pandemics– and a lot of these changes do not seem to be particularly helpful for the Church. But must it be that way? I find it ironic how much we church folk resist change, when change is at the heart of Jesus’ Good News! Jesus’ Gospel is about the change from hopelessness to hope, the change from sin to sanctification, the change from the hole of isolation to holy belonging, the change from spiritual poverty to the abundance of blessings.
It is too easy to get stuck reflecting on the loss change brings, rather than getting excited about the opportunity that change brings. But do reflections only show us what is, or guide us in what can be? We probably don’t even think about it, but it’s likely safe to say that most people use reflections most of the time to shape what will be—whether in the bathroom mirror cleaning or improving our faces with soap, razor or makeup, or in the car’s rear view mirrors, ensuring safe movement through fast-moving obstacles. Can our new year’s reflections function in the same way? Or can we only see the doom and gloom in dark reflections?
I guess it depends on where you put your focus. Sure there are fast-moving obstacle all around us—but does that keep us off the road? Drive safely with the help of reflections—both on the road, and as we guide our church into the future.