“How many of you are planning to make a New Year’s resolution?” I asked a congregation last week. Very few hands went up. I assume that most of the others had already obtained perfection. For me, New Year’s Eve and Day are a time of transition. The stores are closed, meetings are canceled, and I’m afraid to go out on the roads. It is a good time to reflect on what has been and what will be. Again, I made the resolution I only partly kept last year, to be a more loving person. By loving, I mean ‘in the moment,’ and present for the people I meet. I shouldn’t spew the garbage of my lousy day on others. I should be prepared to listen and hear what the person I am facing is concerned about. To be Christ-like, moment by moment, is my on going New Year’s resolution. This is what John Wesley was talking about when he asked the early Methodists to become ‘perfect in love.’
In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul speaks a blessing on his readers. In 2014 we, as the current readers of Ephesians, will receive divine forgiveness and the fullness of God’s grace. What does this mean to you? I am grateful that there is grace before I fail. I am not likely to be perfect in love. Having a mulligan, however, doesn’t make me a better golfer. It’s not just the fact that we are being told that our failure to meet expectations in the coming year is OK. Instead, we are being reminded of how God has promised to be loving us moment by moment in 2014. His grace becomes our hope, and that hope leads us to really work at becoming more loving.
At the chapter’s end, Paul prays that, “the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (v.17). This is the difference between well-wishing and actually making a request of the Holy Spirit; Paul knows that we can’t just get a better year in 2014 out of thin air. We need two things. 1st Wisdom; the capacity to live life well, to adjust to our circumstances, to grow spiritually in our trials, and to capitalize on our assets and opportunities. There are many voices offering wisdom in today’s world. Hearing the right one for this moment will require a gift from the Holy Spirit. 2nd Revelation; is the awareness of God that comes only from God. You can’t discover God in a test tube or prove him with human philosophical arguments (I’m a Philosophy major, I know). You can only know God on God’s terms. This is why transitional times like New Years are so important. We reflect on the past year and say, ‘where did I see God?’ or ‘where should I have seen him if I had been less self absorbed and more open?’ We wait in quiet. We establish new habits for spiritual formation. We pray.
In 2014, all of the good things of the first chapter of Ephesians are already ours. That’s the point of the chapter. That’s the power of Paul’s prayer.