New Year, New Focus

December 27, 2018 | Church | Steve Vistaunet

G.K. Chesterton is credited with a rather cogent reminder: "The object of a New Year,” he said, “is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul."

I believe he’s right. As we turn the proverbial page to yet another year, it’s high time to talk turkey — veggie turkey, that is, and I don’t mean the gastronomic sort. I’ve had my fill of that through Thanksgiving and Christmas.

In colloquial parlance, to “talk turkey” means to discuss something in a frank, open and serious manner in order to solve a problem.

Our nation needs this. We stand in critical need of respectful, honest dialog as we begin 2019. No matter what political platform you support, progress toward equitable solutions will never happen without frank, constructive partnerships. This requires words shared meaningfully with one another beyond the knee-jerk tweets and snarky social media quips that garner so much attention. Indeed, there is a certain selfish satisfaction that comes from a “drop-the-mic” moment on digital media. But it is not “talking turkey,” it is simply turkeys talking. With each shallow-minded blast, the divide among us grows wider and deeper. Thoughtful discussion is needed that draws us beyond our differences to values and principles we can hold in common.  

Our church needs this around the globe and in our own corner of the Pacific Northwest. We could benefit with a deep, cleansing breath from the skirmishes and misunderstandings that have unfortunately gained steam during 2018. We’ve spent more time talking about one another than talking with each other. We’ve too often assumed the worst before understanding the facts.

I have a nagging sense that no matter what divisive issue we bring up within our church, it will become a spreading source of infection unless we first attend to what holds us together — Jesus Christ and His mission for us. How can we share a message of hope and healing to our world when we struggle to do it within our own ranks?

This is a critical step for us to resolve. Our mission is an active challenge, not merely a corporate paragraph somewhere in the official minutes. It creates a promise that must be born out among us and through us. Elizabeth Holmes learned that lesson the hard way. Holmes was the founder and former CEO of Theranos, a now-defunct company that claimed it had developed a revolutionary method for blood tests. Before those revelations were discovered to be unsupported, Forbes had named her as the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire. Holmes' blazing star quickly faded.

What must we do to be certain that our own claims are not found to be false? The product we’ve been given to share with our communities will become a joke and a byword among them unless we can replicate it within our own laboratory. 

The central source of our mission, the core ingredient of our product, is Jesus. Only when we are centered on Him and in Him, will our God-given mission flourish. Only then, will our product match its promise and make sense to those we are called to reach.

So, what shall we do with this new year ahead? As author Edith Lovejoy Pierce says: “Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.”

What will the first chapter of 2019 look like for our church? What actions and attitudes will be represented there? You and I are part of the equation. And if we are tasked to reveal Jesus to our world, our first steps will be toward Him. Focused on Him, we will awake one day, surprised that He has brought us to the unity we tried so hard, so long, so unsuccessfully to achieve on our own.

Chesterton had it right. Good things in the new year will come, not from surface resolutions, but from renewal within. It’s what was promised so long ago, recorded in the ancient words of Ezekiel: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”