I am aware that many are reading this message before the New Year has begun, but maybe that is for the better. Maybe some will be reminded that something new is upon us and we wish and hope that the new thing will be a happy occasion. My thoughts this new year are about the years that have passed since coming to this wonderful parish - of all the holy things you have accomplished in and outside the church, of the praise and worship of a generous and loving God that I have seen in and through you, and the continuing hope I see expressed especially in those who have experienced significant challenges and loses over these years. In these thoughts, I recall the words of Paul who encouraged the faithful saying, “Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
As was true of the early church and the days of the kings and prophets before the church, we live in a world that challenges us and threatens to overwhelm some of us. I am grateful for the love of God shown through his church and especially this parish. The church and its people are the embodiments of God’s truth and honor and its ministries are the incarnation of God’s justice and holiness. They are pleasing and commendable and excellent and worthy of praise, and importantly they keep us grounded in the love of God when chaos and darkness enter our lives. In this New Year, I am reminded that these are gifts of God for the people of God. They are freely given and for a people, people like you and me, children of God who are dear to his heart. It is a simple thought, but God wants to give us something. He just gave us his son at Christmas, yet God is not done giving. We know that, but I wonder if have stopped receiving? Are there gifts God offers that we fail to receive because we have stopped expecting to be surprised? I was at our Tuesday soaking prayer service a few weeks ago and was gifted with a wonderful reflection on the presence of the Holy Spirit in this parish. These several weeks later that message is still inspiring my soul. I guess I needed to hear the Holy Spirit speak and maybe you do as well. I believe God is always offering gifts and I had to be there to receive that message I know was spoken to all, but I also know was meant just for me.
I pray that in this New Year all of us would think about the gifts of God that we may have left “unwrapped.” Some may want to resolve this new year that they will not leave the gift of receiving Holy Communion unused. That gift is offered every Sunday and Wednesday. Some may want to start the new year with a renewed commitment to holy living through a formal act of reconciliation. Your priests are here for you. Some may resolve to seek the healing power of God by taking advantage of the intercessory prayers offered during Sunday worship and on Tuesday night. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are ready to pray for you. Others may want to recommit themselves to some form of discipleship, studying the Word of God and serving others in a renewed and intentional quest for the gift of holiness. May the light of Christ shine upon the path to the gifts you wish to receive and may the inspiration of the Holy Spirit lead you to greater gifts in this new year.