Word for the Year, maybe?

The other day Trey Ferguson wrote about how following Jesus implies movement (thus the name of his substack, The Son Do Move). I say this kind of thing, too, all the time. It’s a helpful fact to keep in mind when, for example, you feel like the ground’s shifting under your faith and you are wondering if you’re losing yours, or if everyone around you is. 

I like to remind people that if Jesus is our Destination and also the Way, we don’t have to freak out when the scenery and the terrain changes, because He remains constant when nothing else—including our own selves—seems to. Ideally, we will change, in fact, as we follow Him closer. This is the premise behind The Walk, the Pilgrimage course on stages of faith (for which late-spring course registration is now open, by the way), and also of Follower, the book on Simon Peter I’m trying to pitch. 

On Sunday, in central New England—as predicted for once—we got a lot of snow. 

Cranberry Corners

Five years ago we instituted a joyous tradition at Central Baptist Church in which we celebrate the new year and our God who got us through the old one by having what we sometimes call a “holy talent show,” also called Celebration Sunday, on the first Sunday of the year. This year we were also going to baptize three new sisters in Christ and welcome four new members to our congregation.

But as I mentioned, we got a lot of snow, and so we had to cancel meeting on the seventh, and postpone all of the festivities until the fourteenth. (Which actually works out kind of delightfully if you are going to be attending Winter Solace and choose to sign into virtual church on the last day of our retreat.) 

Even if it hadn’t taken about two hours to dig out the first time (there was more than one time that one day), the town had requested a day and a half beforehand that people stay off the road that day so they could focus on snow removal. So instead of everyone having to rush to clean off their cars and shovel their driveways before their cars got covered up again, or trying to get to church on time without sliding into a ditch, everyone got to stay home in their pajamas and drink hot chocolate if they wanted. (I have no idea if that’s what anybody did, but they could have.)

In other words, they could be still.

It turns out that while movement is an integral part of the Christian faith that we would do well to remember, stillness is just as vital. It doesn’t come very naturally to people, though, I don’t think. At least, not to New Englanders. We are a curmudgeonly lot of heroes. We go to work sick (pre-covid for sure, but let’s be honest—some of us still do that). We head out in inclement weather like mail carriers and don’t cancel anything for anything because never let it be said we were bested by a pile of snowflakes or gale force winds or something. 

I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s for the first time at least since I became a pastor and probably before that, and my Paul and my parents and the dogs (mostly) and I all practiced quite a bit of stillness together. It was so lovely and restorative after a year like 2023. So I didn’t really need this Sunday to be a snow day, and when it became clear that it was going to be one, I considered opening up zoom for a prayer service this morning. And then to my surprise God said, 

Yeah, don’t do that. 

But God. You-forbid I look like a slacker. I already had a week off.

Right. But they didn’t. This is not about you.

[The not-about-me thing is something else God and I are working on lately, but I let that slide for the moment.] I mean…I guess everybody could just pray on their own. But what if they don’t?

Did I mention it’s not about you? You provide all sorts of avenues for people to connect with Me, just like I invite you to. But eventually they and I need to work things out directly, don’t you think? Be still. And let them be still in the way that each of them needs to, today. 

Okay, but can I write about it…? 

[Note to any readers from Central Baptist Church below!]1

Like I said. Stillness doesn’t come naturally. Which is probably why God has to keep reminding us about it:

After God created everything, God rested—and later inserted that same principle into His 10 Commandments.

When the Egyptians were trying to get their slaves back and the Israelites were stalled at the banks of the Red Sea, although the Israelites were going to have to physically move in a minute, God did not want them to fight or fret or fear: 

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

In the midst of natural and political chaos, the poet of Psalm 46 reminds us that God is our center of stillness. 

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

I’m terrible at New Year’s resolutions, so I don’t make them, and I never seem to be able to land on a “word for the year” that stays with me, but I think maybe I’ve got myself one for this year. In a world where we have to be heroes—whether it is by physically daring a winter wonderland in a car, or by opening a zoom call when it would be better for everyone to rest, or by defending a political or theological point with blustery words on social media—the stillness God calls us to is a gift.

Be still, God says. I’m God. You can trust Me. I’ve got you. I’ve got them. I am still here.


Note to readers from Central Baptist Church below: I’m pretty sure this was a one-off for all of us, and if we have another snow day this winter, you can be sure I will either preach my sermon online or host a zoom Bible study that day or both!