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Message Supplement (for 3 January 2016)

Happy New Year! Are you ready to learn from the lessons of 2015 as you enter 2016? As the calendar turns, can you manage new challenges and opportunities? With God’s help, we can all answer a resounding “Yes!” We’ll revisit the New Year topic in just a bit. Meanwhile, consider John 1:1-18, which presents hardcore theology and sets-up Jesus in the high heavens. Seldom is Jesus’ divine pedigree narrated more magnificently as in these verses from John. Equating Jesus with the light, life and the power of creation teases our understanding. Regardless of your take on this, John’s startling language can inspire us.

John’s Greek word logos describes what we translate as “Word” in John’s Gospel. But this isn’t just any word, it is the Word. The biggest, greatest, first-event in the universe type of Word. John presents Jesus as the message and mechanism of creation. Then Jesus the Light & Creator was born, such that the Spirit of God became flesh. The implications and ramifications of these statements have busied theologians for centuries. The practical effect is even more important, namely that we are restored, renewed, and redeemed by the power behind all the grandiloquent language.

What does any of this have to do with New Year’s? Not so much, but consider the odd “BOGO” in the message title. Buy One Get One has become a modern marketing cliché. The gist is that you buy an item and then you get something that at least appears to be “free.”  If we extend this market analogy, then what we have “bought” is an understanding of God through John’s words. What is our freebie? I suggest “faith fuel,” the ongoing, propelling confidence that our souls are secure. The word “fuel” appears a bit odd but consider how we can absorb descriptions about Jesus and energize our faith journey. It may be a struggle to perceive things this way, but creatively expressing abstract theology helps build a stronger faith.

The encouragement is for us to create a renewed reality by allowing ourselves to be redeemed through the transformation of our hearts and minds. All the grand claims about who Jesus is and what God has done can overwhelm and disconnect from reality. Despite the claims of some professional theologians, orthodoxy (i.e., politically correct theology) is never enough. We need to feel God’s presence as we make choices. We can read theology until we’re sick but we can go further if we strive to cultivate God’s presence. We will be known by our fruits—behaviors—and if we have become like good trees producing good fruit then that is more significant then what we say we believe.

Yes, any authentic spiritual life arises from aligned attitudes and actions. The old saw about talk being cheap applies especially to theology. Group pressure, coercion, ignorance and just plain laziness can pressure us to just “sign on the dotted line” and leave our souls in the hands of religious officials, denominations and bureaucracies. Not so in God’s kingdom. Here, we live the most authentic spiritual life as we embrace God. We must resist the seduction to subcontract our personal relationship with God to any third-party. As we receive God’s love and truth, we accept primary responsibility for accepting God’s promises.

Up to now I’ve avoided the word “resolution,” as in “New Year’s resolution.” Yet we need a determination to be the person God wants us to be. Here we are on the third day of 2016 and yet there’s always danger in losing momentum toward our goals. Perhaps we can resolve to live our best life going forward. What are we headed for? My crystal ball is a bit foggy so I can’t help you as much as I’d like. In one sense it doesn’t matter what we face in 2016 as long as we yearn for and embrace God’s presence. Life teaches us that we’ll encounter challenges and opportunities when and where we don’t expect them. Helping us survive and thrive means that we must seek God’s ever-present indwelling power. If you’re only willing to make one resolution then for goodness sake be resolved to do grow closer with God and then to share God’s love and truth with others.

Speak the Word. Claim the power of Jesus as you partner with God to create a superb 2016. Hunger and thirst for God’s creative presence to be borne through your attitudes and actions. Reflect John’s provocative imagery and share your inspiration as God’s Spirit empowers you. In you, with you, and through you, God is as real as God can be.   –Reverend Larry Hoxey