As the old-time sailing ships crossed by each other on the vast oceans of the world, they used to shout ‘Whither bound?’ It’s a good question to ask ourselves at the start of a New Year. Whither bound?’ Where are we heading? And what course do we need to follow? No one wants to be an aimless drifter through this life. As all navigators know, it is essential to log the miles passed, to fix the present position, and then to plot the future course. So too must we on the journey of life. But what if we are in uncharted seas, 1f the future 1s all unknown, and we do not know the way?
2019 promises to be a year of change and uncertainty. It is certainly true at the moment concerning the future path of the life of our nation in terms of our relationship with other nations. But change and uncertainty also face the church and us individually. As we enter the New Year with the future all unknown, we must first look over the past with the misfortunes and mistakes that have thrown us off course. We need to check our present position in the sight of God, for there are mistakes to be corrected and relationships to be repaired. Forgiveness needs to be found and restitution made before we can turn over the stained page of the past. But the year ahead is unsullied. The chart of the future lies clean and waiting to be plotted – if only we knew the way.
As a child, I vividly remember once getting lost on Putney Common, not far from where I lived, but far enough away to send me into a panic when I realized my family was not with me. Fortunately, help was at hand. In the distance, I could recognise the familiar sight of the local parish church. I also knew that the church was situated next to my school so I could get my bearings because I knew only too well the well-walked route between school and home. Using the church as my compass point, I set off home. By the time I approached the road I lived in there were my family so relieved to see me and all was well – thanks to the familiarity of the church giving me the necessary landmark.
So here is a prayer for guidance. ‘If I have indeed won your favour, then teach me to know your ways’ (Exodus 33.13). It was the prayer of Moses for himself and the people of God, as they wandered along an unknown way across the bewildering wilderness. They had fled from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and started their journey with high hopes. Behind them were the days of slavery, ahead of them the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey; but so far they had found only sand and stones, and a landscape of rugged rocks. Having lost a sense of direction they began to grumble against the leadership and turned aside from the worship of God to idols of gold-as do many today. When Moses came down from the Mount of God, drawn by the din of drums and dancing, he saw the golden calf. In righteous anger, he dashed to the ground the broken laws of God and left the stone inscriptions there to shame the people who had rejected God. Then Moses returned and prayed that God teaches himself and the people the true ways of God.
Here is a word of God not only for the people of a past age but also for the people of our time as we face the uncertainty of 2019. The One who said he was the Way, the Truth and the Life, taught us to pray that God’s reign of love might come on earth, as it is in heaven. Let us all make it our New Year resolution to work as hard as we can to bring that to pass this year.
Nicola, Cameron, and Ross join me in thanking you for all your good and kind wishes at Christmas and join me in sending you greetings for 2019.
With love and prayers, Russell