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Laity Reflection: A “Peculiar” Start to the New Year by Carolyn Moe Graduate, School for Lay Ministry

January 11, 2013
Northern-Sun Print
Just after Christmas I was touched by a note from Rev. Karen Nichols Dungan, who like the rest of us was looking for a way to help us understand recent tragedies we know about. She said, “ After the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut recently, it seemed peculiar-odd to participate in joy-filled worship and other celebrations last week.” I have to admit that I felt that way, too. Was our celebration just a way of ignoring and trying to forget those events that are unforgettable to those so personally involved in this and other sadness so near to Christmas? I think Karen was right in helping us remember that it is because our Savior, Jesus Christ came to suffer in this life with us and for us that we can be comforted. She continues, “ We are peculiar people, though. Peculiar by the secondary definition in the dictionary: “belonging exclusively to or identified with somebody or something”. We have acknowledged in our baptism that through Jesus, God has acted and continues to act redemptively in the world, and that we have been claimed by God for those same redemptive purposes.” Maybe you are one or know others, who find Christmas particularly hard because of circumstances in your lives that make it a sad and hurting time. Maybe you are mourning the loss of loved ones, wondering if there is a loving God out there, full of fear and loneliness, feeling unworthy because of sin and loss of hope. Maybe you are just weary and full of doubt about the future and need to hear some good news. It comes in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.” The Good News is that Jesus came to claim us and redeem us from these difficult times. Will that mean we won’t have troubles and heartaches in our lives anymore? No, but it will mean we have a Savior and mentor in the Holy Spirit to stand with us through life’s trials. We have a change of focus, not on the troubles of yesterday or trials of today, but on the promise of the life to come. Karen continues: “Being claimed by Jesus means that we envision, and give our lives toward working for, a world that is not yet (fully) visible, one where: •The oppressed and prisoners are liberated •The blind see and all wounds are healed •The mourning are comforted •The poor have good news preached to them •The hungry are filled with good things and the rich are sent away empty-handed •God’s mercy is shown to everyone •Light shines in the darkness, and •People are guided on the path to peace Yes, it feels peculiar-odd-to celebrate when we look into the reality of suffering and injustice in the world. Even so, isn’t it precisely in the face of suffering and injustice that Christians are called to be peculiar, to claim the reality of what God has done and is doing in the world, and to give ourselves more fully to living ‘the reality of what we hope for’?” May your new year be one filled with that hope that comes from being “peculiar” people claimed by Christ. May you also share that hope we have with the people in the hurting world around you. Karen Nichols Dungan is the assistant to the Bishop for Connectional Ministries, Iowa Conference, United Methodist Church


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