A New You for the New Year

Rev. Donnell T. Wyche — January 3, 2021

Happy New Year!
Such a power-packed hopeful phrase! In this simple greeting is so much promise,
spunk, grit, and potential.

“Don’t worry, Be happy. Leave the past in the past.” We rehearse. We have so much to
look forward to, we are greeting and welcoming a new year, and maybe a new me too.

The Babylonians, who are credited with creating this annual celebration, were a clever
bunch. Taking a rather unremarkable transition of no special significance–the passing of
time–and infusing it with so much hope, promise, and potential. In the matter of a
second, everything that was past, is gone, banished into the abyss, and behold it’s a
new day, a new year, a new you!

And this celebration is as universal as breathing. Almost every culture around the planet
celebrates the passing of another year. It’s a perfect occasion to take inventory of the
past 365 days and reflect, looking back on failures, mistakes, or sorrow with new hope
and increasing our gratitude.

We made it.
Maybe this year will be better.

And this gets us looking forward, making resolutions to ourselves and others. It’s about
our feeling better or good about ourselves, “I want this year to be better than last year.”

Jesus Invites Us to Live Full & Dependent Lives
Jesus wants the same thing for us. Almost. Jesus wants us to live lives of meaning and
purpose, lives that are full and joyful, lives that are free from anxiety and worry, which
means we have to live lives that are fully dependent on God.

Consider what Jesus says in John 10:

7“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who have come before me are
thieves and robbers. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will
come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the
Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John

As I’ve been thinking about our church and praying for each of you, I have a sense that
we are being invited to continue to open our hands, increase our trust, and continue to
take risks. I want us to increase our trust by taking more risks in being generous,
present, faithful, willing to be disquieted, and willing to be uncomfortable. As we do this,
as we fill in the gaps, I believe we will have more God encounters.

There are lots of gaps that need filling and I wonder what entering a time and period of
discernments about filling the gaps. What risks God may inviting us into, whether
serving those in under resourced communities like the those with housing insecurity,
food insecurity, or limited educational opportunities. Even in the midst of pandemic,
meeting online each week, God continues to send us new people each week, many of
whom are looking for a place to belong, a community to welcome them, enfold them,
and encourage them as they pursue, follow, and surrender to Jesus. As we continue to
grow, let’s grow our sense of connectedness, fidelity, loyalty, and community as well.
This is a shared task. I need your help, and more than that, I need your partnership.

Feeding the homeless for Thanksgiving, figuring out how to house the houseless during
the winter, and standing in the gap with those at the margins.

As I continue to think about how we increase our trust, I’m struck by what’s in the way,
our fears. Sometimes we can articulate our fears.

Will I be taken care of?

Does anyone see me?
Does anyone love me?
Is there space for me?
Sometimes we can’t. Maybe we have been hurt or disappointed by others that our fears
sit just below the surface.

Either way, if we do not nurture and develop an inner-life that allows us to be in the
presence of God, and know that God sees and loves us, we will soon discover that our
fears will rule us. [If we don’t nurture our inner, spiritual life, we won’t discover anything.]

Notice that Jesus says in John 10:14-15:

14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the
Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John

Increasing Trust
When Jesus encounters someone in the New Testament, there’s a consistent pattern,
he invites them to consider that he has a better way for them to live their lives.

He didn’t encountered anyone and said, “You’re good.” No, in every encounter, Jesus
says, here’s the next step in your connection with God.

You see this in call of the disciples, in the lives of major characters like Zacchaeus, The
Rich Young Ruler, the Mary and Martha the sisters of Lazarus. In every encounter,
Jesus has something better to offer, if they are willing to trust and obey him. He’s not
promising them a cushy life or to zip them away, he’s offering them a better way to
experience life.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my
yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find
rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We start our transformation with our acceptance of God’s kindness, forbearance,
patience. Let me also acknowledge that not all aspects of God’s interaction with us that
can be observed. So, there is very active process of letting go, you may have been
holding onto a rope for dear life and then Jesus says, “trust me” so you have to let go.

You have to let go
of fear,
of control,
of power,
and fall into powerlessness and vulnerability suspending your disbelief and trust that
you are falling up into God’s love, kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this
mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your
sin? (Romans 2:4)

As you surrender, consider that you are surrendering to the God that Jesus trusted with
his life and said was always good and at work for you and your benefit.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against
us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how he not also,
along with him, graciously give us all things? … No, in all these things we are more than
conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31-32; 37)

Here’s a question for us to ponder together, “Assuming we are on a journey together,
what might we need to surrender to clear our path in 2021?”

Would you be willing to participate in a little exercise? Text prayer card to (734)
887-1569. Use this blue prayer card to capture your responses.

Take a moment, reflect on the past year, as you do, consider these questions,

“What did you struggle with or in during the past year?
What disrupted your peace, rest, and joy?
Where did you feel like you missed an opportunity to trust Jesus?”

Try to become aware of the way that we are striving on our own to achieve these hopes
and dreams or expecting others to get with our plans and help us. Doing this will give
God a chance to speak to us about whether God has the same hopes and dreams for
us and if so, whether we are trusting God to make them happen.

As you consider your answers to those questions and reflection, take a moment and
use the online blue prayer card and capture it as a prayer request. You have a lot of
freedom here, but I would encourage you to capture it as a single word or phrase. If you
are able, you could form it into a prayer request and capture it on the card.