On the New Year…
By Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
–PSALM 23 (KJV)
For many people, 2017 was a year of loss.
I’m not talking about the losses we Denver Bronco fans feel so deeply, despite the 5-11 record! I’m talking about the people who suffered loss in Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; those who suffered loss in wildfires in California, Oregon and other spots in the west. And then there are those who lost loved ones or were otherwise affected in the many incidents of gun violence or terrorist attacks; Las Vegas and New York to name two. And these are just the big news stories! There were thousands of other smaller stories of natural disaster, tragic accidents, human evil and/or brokenness that affected us this last year. My guess is everyone who reads this will be able to label some sort of loss in the last year.
Doubtless these losses should always be weighed against the positives; the Rockies, for example, played some surprisingly good (that’s not just the Cardinals fan speaking) baseball last year, the stock market continued to grow and posted all-time highs, and technology continued to advance to the point that, for better or worse, driverless cars are a real possibility.
And there were also those major things in 2017 that are hard to classify as either positive or negative like the “Me Too” movement, which on the positive side served to shine a light on some real problems that have existed for a long time in our culture but on the negative side saw some of our iconic leaders and celebrities brought low for shameful behaviors both past and present.
So, what are we to make of all of this?
Some would say that the “wars and rumors of wars” should put us on guard for the coming Return of Christ. Others are more Stoic in outlook, saying that while 2017 was quite a year it was, after all, just another year. And still others will say that the year should serve to re-call the church to service, that the need to bring to reality God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven is greater today than it ever was.
I don’t really know what to say to all of this… there is some truth in most of the perspectives I have heard expressed about the significance of the year we just experienced.
But I do know one thing…that even though I walk through this valley of loss…I do not walk alone! For Christ is with me; His direction guides and comforts me. And despite all the darkness and confusion that surrounds me, Jesus has promised to prepare a place for me.
So even though 2017 was whatever kind of year it was, we can faithfully proclaim “OUR CUPS ARE OVERFLOWING! GOODNESS AND MERCY IS OURS FOR ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES!”
Prayer: The greatest gift I have ever received, Oh God, is the gift of your Son into my world and into my life; Your Presence! Let me walk in the confident knowledge of Your Power and Presence in my life, today and every day, no matter what has happened in my past, no matter what is happening in this hour and no matter what will happen in my future. Amen.
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran