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Words of an Unprecedented Year

Since 2004, Oxford Languages has chosen a Word of the Year (WOTY), a “word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the last 12 months.” Given the year we just lived through, I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that Oxford wasn’t able to choose a single WOTY for 2020. Instead, they released a report called

. Commenting on their inability to narrow it down to a single word, an executive at Oxford named Katherine Martin said this: “What struck the team as most distinctive in 2020 was the sheer scale and scope of change. This event was experienced globally and by its nature changed the way we express every other thing that happened this year.” She’s right. The “scale and scope of change” not only left us disillusioned but also has fundamentally altered the way we process and discuss everything that happened in 2020, and, as you know, those effects are still very much with us. In light of everything that has happened and is happening, in light of the mass upheaval we have experienced and are still experiencing, what do we do? How do we, as God’s people, press on into the abundant life God promised, the holy life God has called us to live? I’ve thought and prayed a lot about this, and I wish I had easy answers. I don’t. Here’s what I do have:

1. We have to learn to live with the

disequilibrium.

For me, the hardest times in life are the times when I don’t know what’s coming or I don’t really know what the solution to a problem is. Guess what? That’s where we all are, right now, whether we will admit it or not. None of us really know what’s coming, and none of us have solutions for the problems we’re facing. Sure, we can give the “Sunday School answers.” Even though those Sunday School answers are true, they are insufficient, in and of themselves, to address the breadth and depth of the problems we’re facing in society We crave stability and certainty, but, right now, easy answers and quick fixes aren’t cutting it. We might as well strap in because this may be a long, bumpy ride. As God’s people, with God helping us, we have to learn to live with the disequilibrium of not knowing, remembering that our hope in Christ is not for this life only (1 Corinthians 15:19).

2. We have to cling to what is ultimately true. While things, on the whole, are a mess and a great many of our illusions either have been or are at risk of being shattered, that doesn’t mean nothing is good, right, and true. In John 18, standing before Pilate, Jesus said, “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” In response, Pilate asked the question many are asking today, “What is truth?” For many, truth is either individually relative or totally irrelevant. For those of us who are “of the truth,” we know what is ultimately true and that the ultimate truth is revealed in and through the person and work of Jesus, who, in His own words, came to testify and bear witness to the truth. In this state of disequilibrium, I’m reminded of Corrie Ten Boom’s words: “Hold everything in your hands loosely, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” God has done some prying over the last year, hasn’t He? Maybe we need to loosen our grip on some things and tighten our grip on others, clinging to what we know is ultimately true, rather than grasping at what we wish were true.

My friends, I want you to know how much I love you. I’m grateful to be your pastor, and I’m grateful to know that you and I are in this thing together.

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