And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;
and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
How do you like to spend these days at the threshold of the New Year? Do you like to just kick back and relax, binge college bowl games, go shopping, exercise away some holiday pounds, get ready for taxes? Traditionally these have been days for doing some personal inventory and taking stock of our lives; a time for looking back and looking ahead.
The idea of taking stock at the threshold of a New Year was long ago symbolized by naming the month of January after the Roman god Janus. Janus was the god of the threshold, the god of exits and entrances, the deity overseeing transitions. People have long paused at the threshold, paused to take off shoes, to pray, carry a bride, hang mistletoe, and paint lamb’s blood over it. Thresholds have long been deemed important.
So, here we are pausing at the threshold of the year to do some looking back and looking ahead. This is a good time for asking where I have been (PAST), where I am (PRESENT), and where I would like to go (FUTURE). I like to ask these questions personally, as well as ask them for the ministry of Water from Rock.
Swiss theologian Emil Brunner (1889-1966) has helped me think about the past, present, and future, through his book Faith, Hope, and Love. Brunner writes about faith having to do with the past, hope having to do with the future, and love having to do with the present. Brunner summarizes: “Faith is a relation to God’s act of revelation and redemption in the past and…hope is the expectation of what God will do in the future…Love is the way by which God changes our present.”
Our faith has to do with history, with God revealing Himself in Jesus Christ as the Word becomes flesh. Faith is more than just believing certain facts about the past but is believing that our past is buried with Christ in His life, death, and resurrection. Faith is about Advent and Christmas and celebrating God redeeming and forgiving us in Jesus Christ.
Faith is the other side of hope that is the confident looking ahead to what God will do for us in Christ Jesus. Hope for our future is the way we express our faith. Faith without hope is not faith. As we remember God’s wondrous acts on our behalf in the past we project that into God’s glorious future. And our hope is about more than our personal future, it is hope for all of creation that will be reconciled to God in Christ Jesus. Hope teaches us that life is not meaningless or purposeless. We know that the cosmos is not galloping toward annihilation, but towards God’s peaceable kingdom in which the wolf shall live with the lamb. We live joyfully today because “Christ is not only the object of our faith as the Crucified one, He is also the object of our hope as the Glorified one.” (Brunner) We eagerly look forward to Christ’s Second Advent!
So we live in the faith of what God has done for us in the past, in the hope of what God will do for us in the future, and in the love of God that He has for us in the present. God’s love for His beloved changes everything for us right now. That’s a lot to celebrate on the threshold of another year!!
A Fellow Traveler,