Looking Back . . . Looking Ahead

As we turn the calendar from one year to the next, I am reminded of the ancient god, Janus, from whom the month of January is named. In ancient Roman mythology, Janus is the god of gates, doors, and transitions like from life to death, or youth to adulthood, from one season or year to the next. He is depicted with two faces, one that looks back to what has been and one that looks forward to what will be. It seems appropriate, then, as we transition from 2020 to 2021, we take some time to look back and to look forward.

Looking Back

The dark specter of COVID overshadowed the year that most of us are more than ready to bid 2020 good riddance and goodbye with a prayer that it might . . .

“fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.”

Yet, 2020 has not been all doom and gloom. The shifts from in-person, to online, and then to hybrid worship and Sunday school have enabled us to remain connected. Even more so, we have been able to reach some who were not able to attend in-person prior to COVID, and to reach still others who are not officially part of our congregation. (Can I get an Amen?) Even though our doors were closed, or only partially open, we remained the church and not just at worship and study. We remained the church in mission with our drive-up collections for the food pantry along with offerings for and to our mission partners. (You can cheer now!)

Looking Ahead

I’d love to believe that a change in the calendar year would change our circumstances, at least put an end to COVID. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that. Yet, the vaccines do provide a ray of hope.

In 2020 we shut down in-person activities like a flip of a switch. Our full return will be much more gradual. Many will want to wait until there is wider distribution of the vaccine, or at least until we can worship without wearing masks. It will take more time before we can sing together. The good news is that that day will come and there will be much rejoicing.

I don’t think it’s helpful to long for a return to life as it was before the pandemic. What will be is evolving as you read this column. I do think it’s helpful to be open to what will be. Change will happen. We can be sure that one constant remains, regardless of our situation. That constant is God, not the two-faced Janus but, the God of all creation, the God of Jesus, and the Spirit that brings us life, and hope for all eternity.

Psalm 62 (Selected verses)

For God alone my soul waits in silence;

from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;

I shall never be shaken.

For God alone my soul waits in silence,

for my hope is from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;

I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my deliverance and my honor;

my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;

pour out your heart before him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah

Those of low estate are but a breath,

those of high estate are a delusion;

in the balances they go up;

they are together lighter than a breath.

Put no confidence in extortion,

and set no vain hopes on robbery;

if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this:

that power belongs to God,

and steadfast love belongs to you, O Lord.

Prayer

Sovereign God, in a threatening world

we look to you as our rock of hope.

Hear us as we pour out our hearts to you,

and give us your grace and protection;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.