When any real progress is made, we unlearn and learn anew what we thought we knew before. – Henry David Thoreau
Knowledge is learning something every day. Wisdom is letting something go every day. – Japanese Proverb
Don’t worry about missing out. Empty yourself of such concerns. But steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provision. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. — Matt. 6:30-33 (The Message)
Welcome to the New Year! You might be looking back at the past year and thinking, “It was a pretty good year. I got a lot accomplished. The kids did fantastic in all their endeavors. The world’s in a pretty good place. My world is in a pretty good place right now, too.” Or you might be thinking just the opposite, “It was a terrible year for me and my family. Maybe things could be worse, I suppose. But our country, the whole world, is in as bad a place as it’s ever been.” Ironically, I received Christmas letters from folks this past season that were indicative of both sentiments! And I wonder, is this simply a matter of perspective, a matter of how we choose to see the glass — half empty, half full?
Whether you’re excited and proud of the new car you got for Christmas, a big house, or all the friends you have or you’re feeling overwhelmed by the car you have always breaking down, and your housing situation is pretty “iffy,” and you could use a couple of friends right now, science reminds us that all of this stuff we worry about or cling to is mostly emptiness anyway. All space and life is about 99.9999% empty. The atoms that make up all of life are mostly empty. Feel better already, right?
Okay, so maybe this doesn’t help much when you trip and fall on mostly emptiness and bonk your head on the sidewalk and the pain begins to resonate through every nerve in your body and brain. Or maybe it does. We like to be in control. We hate it when we’re not, when things are going our way (or certainly the way most of our upbringing, our community and culture, suggest they should be going.)
I suppose there could also be a lot to worry about in the New Year. Certainly the news we mostly hear every day would suggest so.
This Sunday is Epiphany for us United Methodists. It is the day we remember the Magi discovering the Christ child. And it’s a curious thing to me to think about how much difference a small infant has made over a couple of thousand years and across such great space.
But life is so much less about the big stuff and so much more about the small stuff — including the connections we are invited to make within the vast empty space of life. Charme Robarts reminded me of a joke when the Magi greeted Mary and Joseph and the Christ child, “If it had been three wise women, they would have asked for directions, arrived early, helped deliver the baby, and brought practical stuff like casseroles and diapers.” What is the God inviting in you today? What might this empty space be offering us?
This Sunday I will begin a new series:
Emptiness: Finding Space for a Fuller Life,
with Stories for the New Year,
and the music of Fleetwood Mac, Josh Ritter, and Jason Mraz.
I look forward to seeing you at the Historic 512 at 11:11!
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven