OpinionsBreaking BreadA new name for a new year

A new name for a new year

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We celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the last day of 2022 to remind us of the promises of Jesus as we start the year 2023.

At this season of the year, our minds are crowded with recollections of the past year. As we assess the past year, we gain some satisfaction cheering over our successes.

At the same time, we experience some grief and guilt over our failures. But before long, we find our minds occupied with anticipations of the coming year, some hopeful and some fearful. This is the time when the past and the future wrestle for dominance in our thinking. There is a strange mingling of memory and hope.

Some will attempt to write New Year’s resolutions that most tend to forget. These are some of the New Year’s resolution that some have written:

Resolution #1
2020: I will try to be a better boyfriend to Margie.
2021: I will not leave Margie.
2022: I will try for a reconciliation with Margie.
2023: I will try to be a better boyfriend to Wanda.

Resolution #2
2020: I will get my weight down below 180 lbs.
2021: I will watch my calories until I get below 190 lbs.
2022: I will follow my new diet religiously until I get below 200.
2023: I will try to develop a realistic attitude about my weight.

At this season, someone also said that one has to live each day as if it were his last. That is not a bad philosophy.

But maybe this one is better as we end the year 2022 and start year 2023 tomorrow: We have to live each day as if it were the first day of our life.

Thus, as we enter 2023, we enter into a year with exciting new possibilities. Hopefully, our experiences with the pandemic will be part of the past. Disruptive relationships are soon to be forgotten. Differences are resolved.

In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, 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.”

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 is why I feel that we should come to church at the end of the year, 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.

Ephesians 1 has good news for us 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 he 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 sonship 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.”

As we start another year, we are called God’s chosen ones. God’s elect. God does not want our lives to be meaningless, depressing routines. God wants something better for us.

As you look back in your life, you may feel that you have failed a lot of people, including yourself. Because of your past, people expect you to fail.

But according to our passage, Jesus longs to give you a new name.

Using the words of God through his prophet Isaiah: “The nations will see your vindication, and all 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).

You know, there are some people who think that God is more aware of their failure than the good they had done. 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. And sometimes we also behave in the same manner in our relationship with others.

Please know that God is much more concerned over the good in us than the bad in us. The Holy One is much more anxious to reward our goodness than to punish our evil deeds. Many times while we are condemning ourselves, God is trying to help us realize His mercy and forgiveness.

While we call ourselves “failures” God is calling us “forgiven.” We yell and scream, and flaunt our wickedness before our Creator, refusing to believe in God’s amazing grace.

In John, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends” (John 15:15).

We are calling ourselves ‘failures’ while he is calling us ‘friends’. We are calling ourselves ‘losers’ while God is calling us “my beloved.” We are calling ourselves ‘sinners’ while he is calling us ‘saints’.

God is giving us a new chance, a new lease on life, a new name, no matter how many times or how miserably we have failed. God loves giving people new names.

How marvelous and transforming is God’s love for us. How powerful is God’s Spirit, to take our failures, and give us a future. God continuous to take people who were headed nowhere, and use them to fulfill His plan for the world.

After more than 40 years in my ministry, I have seen people change often quite dramatically. I met a person who never stepped in a church when he was growing up, but later became a member of a church choir, and an officer of the church. I met a lady who told me she has nothing to do with the church. But who years later told me the church has made her life more meaningful.

Never underestimate the power of God in your life or in anyone else’s.

You may remember Cervantes’ story of Don Quixote. Cervantes was thrown into prison in Seville, Spain. Finding himself at the mercy of a band of cutthroats, he tries to divert them by telling them his story of Don Quixote, the “Man of La Mancha.”

In the story, Don Quixote pictures himself as a chivalrous knight. He goes forth to right all the wrongs of the world, but he is a man who lives in a world of impossible dreams. His armor is shabby, and his horse is sagging. He rides for his fair lady whom he calls Dulcinea, which means, “Sweetness.” But Dulcinea is far from a fair lady. She is a prostitute in a country tavern. She tells him she is “the most casual bride of the murderous scum of the earth.” Her real name, she says, is Aldonza. She resents Quixote’s intrusion in her life, and screams at him, insisting that she is no kind of a lady.

But Don Quixote persists, “And still thou art my lady.” He says that he sees heaven when he sees her, to which she replies that all she can see is a dream covered with rusty tin.

Don Quixote’s family tries to make him face reality. They want him to see the world as it really is. As they begin to succeed, his health and his spirit begin to break, and he is at the point of giving up his impossible dream.

But just then Aldonza comes into his room. She looks at him with grateful eyes, and says, “You looked at me, and called me by another name, Dulcinea.” Aldonza had become a lady; her life renewed by someone who dared to believe in her, and call her by a new name. (From a sermon by Charles B. Edwards)

On Broadway, Don Quixote’s life is summed up in the wonderful song, To Dream the Impossible Dream.

We sometimes forget that the first impossible dreamer was God when He created humanity. He sees what we are, and insists on calling us by another name. God dares to dream the impossible dream…for us.

The book of Genesis describes the life story of Jacob. From his birth he was named Jacob, a Hebrew name which meant “supplanter, schemer, trickster, swindler.”

He lived up to his name or down to his name. He cheated his brother out of his birthright; deceived his father, and cheated his father-in-law out of his possessions.

But when the angel of the Lord came to him, he asked his name. When he replied that his name was Jacob (schemer), the angel replied that he would no longer be known as Jacob, but as Israel, which means “Prince of God”.

Thus, as we enter another year, this is a suitable time to expect the best from others; to realize that perhaps with a little help and trust from you, they could be different.

You and I are to forgive those who have sinned against us. If we cannot even forgive each other, how can we ever hope to experience the unconditional love and forgiveness of God?

Listen as God gives you a new name for this New Year, and then go out and live as blessed, chosen, holy, blameless, adopted sons and daughters of God.

What a transforming love God’s love is. How powerful God’s Spirit is to take our failures, and give us a future. How marvelous of God to take people like you and me, and use us to fulfill the plan that God has for the world.

Remember, we belong to the best family in town: God’s family.

___________________________________

Author’s email: [email protected]


 

 

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