A New Year in Unusual Times

The year 2020 was full of many “firsts” and a season of “we’ve never done it like that before.” Sometimes the changes were easy and sometimes they were extremely hard and long. It was certainly a year of adjustments. Now onto 2021, will it be more of the same?

No doubt we are still living in a time of uncertainty, a time of crisis. However, the Bible and our faith points to a journey of hope. We just experienced a world changing birth in Jesus Christ reminding us that God is present with us personally.

Mark’s gospel is not known for the wonderful Christmas story. Rather, Mark jumps right in the thick of life. Mark 1:7-8 reads:
“The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will change your life. I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out.”

If you know Mark’s version of the story, Jesus was baptized by John in the water while the Spirit declared, “this is my Beloved Son.” Then all at once the same Spirit pushed Jesus into the wild. (Mark 1:12) The biblical writers experienced enough about life to know that life ebbs and flows. Jesus went from a high moment right into a low season.

2020 has felt like a low season in some ways and 2021 may well have many ups and downs as we emerge from this pandemic. Yet, God has enough hope for every season. I believe our faithfulness in the past year will empower us to become agents of transformation and point our communities and world to Jesus Christ as the hope of our salvation. My prayer is that 2021 becomes a year of resilience and rebirth, a year of reformation for our churches and ministry.

As we emerge from this crisis sometime in 2021, let us begin a process of resetting and recalibrating where we are and begin to move forward into a new future. I believe 2021 will be a process of phasing into our new future. There will not be a switch that we can turn on and everything goes back to the pre-COVID-19 normal. Things are never going back to the way they used to be. Of course, that has always been true. Before COVID-19 we were able to deny that our current reality had not really changed, or somehow we hoped that the past was coming back to our future. Now it’s obvious, we are faced with a new future. Twenty twenty-one will be a year of figuring out ministry and building confidence with our communities in how we can effectively and fruitfully do virtual ministry and safely return to in person ministry.

Jesus was baptized by John and received the confirmation that he was God’s beloved son. Those same winds of the Holy Spirt drove Jesus into the wild. Forty days and nights of wilderness, only then does he start off to do the work of bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

May it be so for us. We have been in a wilderness of sorts, but God’s resilience has shown forth despite the hardships, death and grief. Now let us set off for a rebirth that will transform our churches, people, communities and world. May 2021 be like a rising star pointing the way toward change in all our lives and may we all hear God’s confirmation, “you are my beloved children.” Now go into the world with that same spirit, marked by God’s love and affirmation.

In Christ,
Bishop Bob Farr