If there is a theme that has emerged over this past weekend, it is the theme of relief. Many of the bloggers I follow and friends I connect with seem glad to put 2016 behind them. Globally speaking, 2016 has locked in political, social, economic, religious, and environmental patterns that seem difficult to reconcile for many. For some, that sense of cultural disintegration is still very undefined as political regimes shift, as economies settle into new spaces, as our pop culture icons slip away, and as innovation and social programs are caught in diminishing returns. For others, that disintegration is as practical as the tent that is now their home as they wait out the winter in a refugee camp. The message of 2016 is that of a year many want to leave behind.
In many ways I feel the same, yet any hope I have for 2017 is tentative. Honestly, I feel battered by New Year’s Day and the promises of renewal. Perhaps it is a concern about misplaced trust, or maybe it is the fact that all the things that seemed to fall apart last year are still in play. Honestly, what has changed except the flip of a calendar page after a space-time hiccup provided by a leap second?
In the midst of these thoughts I stumbled upon a Psalm. A good preacher might help to reorient the congregation in vow-making, helping them to rethink about their New Years resolutions. But I am not a good preacher. Instead, I would like to throw us outside of ourselves, as the first few words do in Psalm 65. Rather than beginning with “I will praise you,” the Psalmists flips the voice: “Praise awaits you, our God.” It is a Psalm about a creator God, whose providence for all the world is framed in the context of forgiveness. God is our Saviour, and the “hope of all the ends of the earth.” Where morning dawns, where evening fades, as cities fall and revolutions fail, as our trusted foundations dissolve with the incoming tides, as current events demand a transformation that we no longer know how to provide–in the midst of all of these and more there is the Lord.
For this, I am eternally glad. I would wish for you grace and peace, hope and joy in 2017. And trust in the One who stills the roaring of the seas as well as the turmoil of the nations.
For the director of music. A psalm of David. A song.
1 Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
2 You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave[c] our transgressions.
4 Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
5 You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Saviour,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas,
6 who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,
7 who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
8 The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
9 You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with corn,
for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with corn;
they shout for joy and sing. (NIVUK)