I hope you and your loved ones have had a restful and joyful Christmastide and a smooth entry into blustery 2018. The Feast of the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Jan 1) is quickly followed by the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6)! Both are equally significant in that they encapsulate the Why—because Jesus saves us from ourselves—and the What—and that is why we invite, not convert, others to follow the Jesus Way or join the Jesus Movement. The star of our life, as the familiar song reminds us, is Jesus who calls us:
to relationship with God, each other and all creation,
to do our part as stewards of all the resources entrusted to us, and
to lead and follow in the Jesus Way.
To follow Jesus is not possible without some degree of commitment and intention because tensions exist between us and them, church and state, chaotic community and beloved community. Let me share a few of my intentions for your consideration on the Feast of the Epiphany at the beginning of the year.
Here are ten specific ways I strive to follow Jesus:
Strive to be joyful. Be joyful in the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song (Psalm 100), is an invitation for every believer to choose and embrace joy in Christ as a way of life. A step in this direction is to see the face of Jesus in someone else and cherish the goodness in them.
Strive to be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. Our personal struggles may seem insurmountable at any given moment, and it is very possible to justify our own sense of self-pity that leads to self-loathing that often leads to being indifferent, oblivious or cynical of others and sometimes everything. I have often thought that there are those who see life as a glass half full, those who see it as half empty and then, there are those who go “What glass?” It is possible to let bitterness dissipate our deepest sense of joy and wonder. You can break that trend today and step by step get out of the place you have allowed to be created. A place called oblivion or nothingness, where nothing exists. This moment is all we are guaranteed. Let’s make it count creatively.
Strive to be curious. The Magi, kings or Wise Men were. That is what started them on their journey following the star, discerning a path to the Palace, recalculating their path to the stable in Bethlehem and then disobeying a king by returning to their place or places of origin by another path. Curiosity, to me, does not mean distraction to the next bright object, but rather a sense of steadiness in creatively pursuing goodness with clarity.
Strive to be courageous. Mary was, Joseph was, and the Shepherds were. In an age of normalized rage and hatred in so many quarters of our common life it is easy to succumb to the temptation to be consumed by rage. The Christian invitation is for us to be people of courage who question authority when power is really abused and sexual and other kinds of bulling is tolerated. In our context, the Dreamers and other vulnerable people need courageous supporters today. Let’s be courageous.
Strive to be forgiving. None of us are perfect and we are all better when we are more aware than merely right.
Strive to be still. I find stillness to be the locus of gratitude. So much of the world around us is reactive and often in unhelpful ways. Make room for silence as the regular space of invocation of that which is good, wise and just.
Strive to be easy on yourself. You are not the center of the universe and while each of us has to be an agent of positive change we don’t need to take ourselves too seriously. Laugh a lot and especially at yourself, it is a good antidote to fear.
Strive to be content with experiences, people or other things. All of life is quite remarkable. When we obsessively compare one experience with another to establish which was better we tend to make some parts of life more significant than others. I like to think that all of life is meaningful; the good times, the mundane times and the bad times. When we compare and grade experiences as better or worse than, we tend to limit the nuances of life’s opportunities and lessons; inadvertently reinforcing dualistic ways of knowing as pure and impure. I have learned much from the rough times and have practiced trusting more from the easy times of life; all of life transforms us. We do not classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves—2 Corinthians 10: 12, and Godliness with contentment is great gain—1 Timothy 6:6.
Strive to empower others to be their best self.
Strive to be humble. We are a work in progress.
I pray that God’s presence will manifest itself in wondrous and transforming ways as you strive to be the best you can be this New Year. You know enough for now, you are enough forever, and love is all you need.