Sheepishly Resolved

New Year’s Eve is my least favorite celebration. Too often in my younger years it meant staying out too late in high heels that were killing me and wearing a silly hat. The parties were always too noisy and too crowded. I really didn’t mind the hat, but the shoes … ugh! My husband and I adopted the tradition of his parents after awhile. We stay up as late as we can and go out on the front porch in our pajamas at “midnight” (which might be 10:15) and pop an air-filled brown paper lunch bag. Boom! Welcome New Year.

New Year’s resolutions aren’t my favorite thing either. Researchers tell us that within six weeks, most of our resolve fizzles out, and we are back to our old habits. Why bother?

I am much more in favor of making life changes based on the Scriptures that speak to us. In that vain, look at today’s lectionary passage. This calls us to change our lifestyle immediately in response to the Gospel … and become sheep.

Now for those of you who follow a certain political rhetoric that implies that sheep are mindless, subpar creatures who blindly follow what their leader tells them, you are right. And I, for one, just want to be a sheep. A Gospel sheep.

Matthew 25 (The Message)

The Sheep and the Goats

31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

And BAM … there it is. There is the only New Year’s resolution you need. There is the Master’s instruction for self-improvement for 2022. Visit the prisoners. Drop in on the sick. (wear a mask!) Clothe the cold people. Volunteer and support your community homeless shelter. Feed the hungry through your community food bank. Be the change.

41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

Just as following the voice of the Master brings blessings into your life, refusing to do as he bids will result in consequences you don’t want to face. In the end, we will all be held accountable to the Gospel demands.

45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”

Let us covenant to do better in 2022 in all of these sheepish things. May we give of ourselves in ways we never have before, and may others be blessed by our efforts.

Happy New Year from At Water’s Edge!

Sun Setting on 2021

Arise and Shine

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? And the follow-up question is, did you choose something realistic? I would love to be 5’ 10” tall and have long, silky, naturally blond hair. But God gave me brown curls, my hairdresser provides my blond highlights, and no matter how hard I try, I will never be 4 inches taller. Wider, sure, but taller? Nope.

The new year causes us to pause and reconsider. We are reconsidering our lifestyles, our habits, our choices, and our daily routines. “Choose a goal and change” is the message of early January. Every new year brings a chance for a do-over.

Whatever you set your mind on this week, I hope daily scripture reading is a part of your makeover. This truly is one thing you CAN change. At Water’s Edge was developed to help you in this quest. It is in your inbox every morning and will always offer you a lectionary scripture and some musings. You can take or leave the musings, but the scripture is guaranteed to speak into your life every day.

Today’s passage encourages us to arise and shine. Think about that for a moment. God is trying to free you from whatever imprisonment has you locked up. Most of the time what imprisons us is of our own making. What are you currently doing that has you feeling trapped and hopeless?

Isaiah 60 (New Revised Standard Version)

Arise, shine; for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

When we read this proclamation of the Lord “rising upon us,“ we know it refers to his healing mercies, his power to overcome all oppression, and his unconditional love for his people. We are invited to tap into the ONE force that can truly obliterate the darkness we are all fighting.

For darkness shall cover the earth,
    and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
    and his glory will appear over you.

When Isaiah wrote this, he was forecasting the return of the Israelites to their homeland and their place of worship. They had lived in darkness long enough. A savior was on the way to deliver them. We are still in the process of seeing this come to full fruition, but in faith we know that every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess him as Lord when the fullness of time has come at his second coming. Then nations will all live in light, and kings will bow down as well.

Nations shall come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn

So while we wait, let’s get better. Let’s do better. Let’s live better, love better, give better, speak better, wait better, and study God’s Word together.

Let us arise and shine in 2021.

Arise and Shine by Michelle Robertson

By Another Route

I suppose it’s time to talk about New Year’s resolutions. First, let me state that I hate New Year’s resolutions. Psychologists tell us it takes at least six weeks of sustained discipline to either make a new habit or break an old habit. They also tell us that six weeks is the average length of time that it takes most of us to abandon a well-intentioned New Year’s resolution. So why bother?

On the other hand, resolutions are like mini-Lents. We analyze our behavior, feel God leading us to change, and make a good effort to follow his guidance. So maybe what I hate is my inability to make a New Year’s resolution stick longer than Lent.

OK, so let’s give it a try. After all, New Year’s resolutions are biblical. Think about it! A resolution is based on:

1. Acknowledgment of a harmful behavior.

2. A confrontation of that behavior.

3. A repenting of the behavior.

4. A conscious decision to turn away from the behavior.

5. A change in direction.

One of the most poignant parts of the story of the three Magi who follow the star to see Jesus is what happens at the very end of the passage:

Matthew 2 (The Message)

9-10 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.

“They worked out another route.”

Having experienced the Messiah and encountering him PERSONALLY, they changed direction.

I suppose that is a New Year’s Resolution in a nutshell. Encountering Jesus in a personal, life-changing way…and then never going back to the old things. And by personal, I mean the on your knees, heart open wide, spilling your guts, and pleading for mercy kind of personal. Followed by accepting him as Savior and changing direction so that you commit to following him for the rest of your days.

Where is God calling you to work out another route? Where do YOU need to change direction in your life?

Christmas was all about encountering the Christ child. New Year‘s is all about finding different routes in your behavior.

And so we begin.

New Routes by Michelle Robertson