Photograph by Ian Schneider via Unsplash
New Year’s reframing
January 30, 2024
Ringing in the New Year offers an opportunity for new perspectives. There is the look back and the look forward, a combination of life review and life planning. It is an inflection point with special gravity (some places even temporarily legalize fireworks for it!)
How can or should we make use of this inflection point in light of Christian faith? There are many approaches to life in the way of Jesus, but I find the following outline especially resonant this year for “resolving” to reframe life in new ways.
First, our faith is centered in the life-freeing “word.” We typically call this the “gospel,” the good news that comes through Jesus Christ that facilitates our commitment to being more fully and truly human. And although this “word” can be heard in many ways (in preaching, in study, in mutual conversation with others) it is also centered in Scripture itself. This is to say, this word is in the Bible.
I’m fully aware that many of us have a complicated relationship to the Bible. We’ve seen it misused and abused. We also doubt whether part of faithful relationship with the Bible is actual wrestling with it. But consider: what if you engaged in Bible study with an intentionally multicultural group, or in a prison, or across some other set of lines of division? What if you studied it with dear friends? What if you wrote more regularly about it?
I believe if we read Scripture (and listen to it in worship) regularly, we will be surprised by the ways it inspires and changes us. Because in and through this word we encounter God.
So start by asking yourself: How might I deepen my faith and experience renewal through the reading of Scripture?
Second, Christian faith is lived out in you. You, the one who has heard the gospel and responded to it. Traditionally Christians have understood this to mean you as the person of faith living out the fruits of the Holy Spirit, bringing love and justice to everyone.
Ringing in the New Year offers an opportunity for new perspectives. There is the look back and the look forward, a combination of life review and life planning. How can or should we make use of this inflection point in light of Christian faith?
I think sometimes we overlook that the faith is first lived out through us, ourselves. Perhaps we hope that somebody else will be the Christian for us. Maybe the pastor. Maybe somebody we perceive as more faithful than us.
But Christianity is actually about personal transformation (not exclusively or even primarily, but definitely crucially), so here you might ask yourself: What is my role as an individual, as a person of faith? How shall I live it in my family, in my work, in my recreation, in the world?
Finally, Christian faith is lived in community. That is, we are called to live our faith, the one we deepen through our engagement with the word, in the church.
Increasing numbers of us skip this part, and unfortunately, in doing so, miss out on a crucial aspect of living the Christian faith. Christianity, if it is anything at all, is a gathering of people that share the fruits of the Holy Spirit with one another. They care for and enliven one another along the way, but then such a community becomes a beachhead for God’s love and justice in the world.
Ask yourself here: is your church, is the faith community you are a part of, such a beachhead? Is the way you live your life as a Christian strengthening that church? Are you bringing the freedom you experience in hearing the gospel through Scripture into the way you participate in the life of the church?
These three things–Word, personal faith, church–can be resources for a life review as we enter a new year. How was your 2023 in your engagement with the Word, your deepening of personal faith, and your life in the church? How will 2024 be for you with the Word, in your personal faith, and your life with the church?
The answers will be many and varied, but they promise to be freeing, life-giving, full of God’s love and justice for our neighbors and the world.
Rev. Clint Schnekloth is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a progressive church in the South. He is the founder of Canopy NWA (a refugee resettlement agency) and Queer Camp, and is the author of Mediating Faith: Faith Formation in a Trans-Media Era. He blogs at Substack.