It can be a challenge to become motivated about a new year. An old year like 2020 can continue to cause us indigestion. January always wobbles around on shaky legs trying to get a solid footing among all the unfinished problems left from the previous year. Ed, my old neighbour in Saskatchewan, like many others, is finding it hard to have much enthusiasm for this new year of ours.
When I talked to Ed on New Year’s Day, I told him our curling might begin on Jan. 14 or it might not, depending on COVID-19 cases. Shutdowns and the cancellation of team sports will still be a challenge for some of us in the first months of 2021. I told Ed, “No sense of whining about limitations. We will curl when we can in the coming year.” Ed felt I was uncharacteristically positive, and he was sure I’ll be complaining before this new year progresses far.
Last year proved our plans and traditions might go up in smoke through circumstances beyond our control. We like our comfortable truths and time-honoured traditions. Life can challenge our long-held beliefs and traditions. The opportunity to meet God personally may come at any time when we least expect it. What we know is limited until God opens our understanding of the limits of our traditions and beliefs. God alone gives us the living waters to eternal life.
The fourth chapter of John tells of a Samaritan woman who found a stranger, a Jew, at her village well when she went to draw water. The Jew, Jesus, asked her, “Will you give me a drink?” (Verse 7) The Samaritan woman answered, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (Verse 9) The woman was amazed at Jesus’s request because she was bound with the belief that Jews do not associate with Samaritans. The woman’s respect for her people’s ideas prevented her from seeing Jesus as anything more than a Jew with an unheard-of request. She could not even see beyond Jesus as a Jew, to merely a thirsty man asking for a drink of water.
Our beliefs and traditions hold us captive to how we react to others. As the woman at the well talked to Jesus, she was focused on how Jews were different from her people, the Samaritans. After Jesus spoke of her having five husbands and the man she was living with was not her husband, the woman saw Jesus as a prophet. Her focus remained on worship traditions between Jews and Samaritans, whether they should worship on their mountain or at Jerusalem as the Jews do. The woman shared that the coming Messiah would explain everything to them. Jesus confessed to the woman that she was talking to the Messiah. She rushed into her city and gathered the people to come and see if Jesus was the Messiah. Many met Jesus and believed that he was indeed the Messiah, as he claimed.
Our long-held beliefs and traditions must connect us with the living Christ who is worshipped neither on the mountain nor in Jerusalem. “God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)