The View from Bolton Street

Christians live in the Future: Some Predictions for 2019

Happy New Year! You might be surprised to know this, but being Christians that follow the Liturgical calendar gives us a heads up when it comes to figuring out what will happen in the New Year. To start with we are already a month ahead! The Church calendar begins on Advent 1, which this year was December 2nd, so you all already know what’s in store for the next month.  There is a lot of preparation ahead, to get ready for the changes and challenges of the year ahead AND in revisiting the mistakes of the past to prepare for a better present and future.

What’s more, our Liturgical calendar gives us a strong heads up about the rest of the year as well. After about a month or so, it is probable that our life will change dramatically! You might say we will have some kind of EPIPHANY and figure out what God is asking for us for the next year, or even few years. Initially, of course, this is pretty exciting! And whatever that Epiphany looks like - a new job opportunity, a change in political leadership, a new personal relationship, or a new leadership opportunity - we will be ready to jump in feet first. 

But, as usual, after a few weeks we will recognize that this epiphany is going to take a little bit of work. And we may not be up to the task. It will take a season of repentance, reflection, and perhaps some reconciliation to get us really ready for that epiphany. This LENTEN season will last, oh 40 days or so and finish dramatically (we hope) with a RESURRECTION moment! A reminder that, wherever we are in life, God is not finished with us yet, and the Church isn’t either!  We will feel like new people, however this resurrection appears to us, and it may even give new clarity or renewed vision to that epiphany we had earlier in the year. 

As we continue to lean in to that resurrection moment, we will find ourselves suddenly imbued by the Holy Spirit and life may seem to suddenly get ORDINARY. But that ordinary time will be nothing but ordinary. It is the time when we do the hard work of building the kingdom; of putting meat on the bones of our Epiphany visions - whatever that vision is for you! A better marriage, a more rewarding career, stronger friendships, a clear legacy, or maybe just a two year old that goes to sleep at a reasonable hour.

And that ordinary time takes us through summer into fall and towards the end of the year. And 2019 will end like most years: with some joys and some sorrows; some big celebrations and perhaps a few worries, Hopefully we will be able to look back and recognize that progress has been made and that you, and we and our communities are in a better place than at the start.

Okay, it may seem a little cheesy to map out the year like this. But there is some value to having a defined yearly routine. It can give your life meaning and purpose when that feels like it is in short supply; and it can offer a way to process the joy and pain of regular life in the context of the church year.  Perhaps most importantly, it means that no matter how stressful, anxiety producing or frustrating the world is, we are always encountering it through the lens of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and his disciples. We are grounding ourselves in something more permanent than the twitter-machinations of politicians, the ups and downs of the stock market, or just the daily stresses of living in Baltimore City.

However 2019 turns out, I am grateful to be spending it with you at Memorial and am looking forward to the Epiphanies that will surprise and delight us over the next year.