It is hard to believe that we are almost at the end of the year – in fact even as I write this the new year has already come for those living in Australia, New Zealand or Asia. And what will this new year hold?
Some of us are breathing a sigh of relief, optimistic that the turbulent times are over and done with. However, most of us are beginning this new decade with a certain degree of fear and trepidation. We have endured a rather bumpy roller coaster ride not just in 2009 but throughout the entire decade.
Economic collapse has for many been the last of a string of disasters. The horrors of 9/11, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, tsunamis that killed hundreds of millions, devastating bushfires in Australia, and even more life taking devastation from hurricanes hitting New Orleans and Myanmar have undermined our confidence in the future and raised our fears to panic level. Even more disturbing are the slow motion trends that will continue to devastate lives throughout the coming decades – climate change and the growing disparity between rich and poor.
How can we respond so that the devastations of our physical world do not undermine our faith or destroy our ability to trust in our loving, caring God whose heart aches for all of us in the midst of our anguish? How can we respond without allowing compassion fatigue to form walls of indifference between us and those who suffer? And how can we respond in a way that strengthens our faith and draws us closer to God?
Following Christ into tomorrow’s world is a challenging commitment. It will require us to grow deep roots that anchor our souls and provide stable foundations that withstand the buffering of wind and storm.
As I look out on my winter garden I gain hope from what I see. There is little evidence of growth, but I know that many of my most treasured plants are still busily growing. In fact it is in the heart of winter that they put down their deepest roots, roots that will provide anchors throughout the coming seasons.
My greatest hope for the future decade comes from the emerging spirituality that is sweeping around our world. Everywhere I travel I meet followers of Christ who are developing everyday spiritual practices that will I believe enable all of us to grow strongly into God’s ways no matter how difficult life becomes.
The resurgence of interest in ancient practices such as a rule of life, daily offices, and the liturgical calendar are heart warming signs that convince me God is alive and very active in our world. The emerging theology amongst evangelicals that embraces concern for God’s creation also gives me hope. And the emergence of a spirituality that connects faith practices and everyday life is even more encouraging as we are rediscovering how to live constantly in the presence of a God outside our church boxes .
Probably most encouraging of all is the growing recognition amongst followers of Christ that we belong to a God who cares for all the peoples of the world and also for this beautiful created world of which we are a part. We are part of an interdependent world community and of an interconnect world environment. We are all made in the image of God and need to grapple constantly with what it means to live as God’s people in a world of rich diversity and complexity.
We live in a changing world and I don’t think that the coming decade will be any easier than the last one has been. However I do believe that it can be a time in which God’s people can shine as beacon’s of light encouraging all the world’s people to journey towards a world that reflects something of God’s eternal world of peace, harmony and wholeness, a world in which all the world’s people share abundantly from the riches of God’s storehouse. A world in which there is mutual care and concern once more as there was at the beginning of God’s creation.
Perhaps as this new year begins you can find hope and encouragement as I do from the ancient words of the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 65: 17 – 25 which one day will be fulfilled.
17 “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth,
and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.
18 Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation!
And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness.
Her people will be a source of joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and delight in my people.
And the sound of weeping and crying
will be heard in it no more.
20 “No longer will babies die when only a few days old.
No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life.
No longer will people be considered old at one hundred!
Only the cursed will die that young!
21 In those days people will live in the houses they build
and eat the fruit of their own vineyards.
22 Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses
and confiscate their vineyards.
For my people will live as long as trees,
and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains.
23 They will not work in vain,
and their children will not be doomed to misfortune.
For they are people blessed by the Lord,
and their children, too, will be blessed.
24 I will answer them before they even call to me.
While they are still talking about their needs,
I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
But the snakes will eat dust.
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”