New Year Thoughts

(On the dias next to the pulpit is a large earthenware flower-pot.)

Have you ever noticed that the twenty-first century doesn't look the way it did on the cover of your favorite comic books. The present isn't quite as fantastic as yesterday's future. I'm sure you've all seen the commercial where Avery Brooks says "Where are the flying cars? I was promised flying cars!" Here are some more amusing predictions for the year 2000.

No Mosquitoes nor Flies. Insect screens will be unnecessary. Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated. Boards of health will have destroyed all mosquito haunts and breeding-grounds, drained all stagnant pools, filled in all swamp-lands, and chemically treated all still-water streams. The extermination of the horse and its stable will reduce the house-fly.

There will be No C, X or Q in our every-day alphabet. They will be abandoned because unnecessary. Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas, and will be more extensively spoken than any other. Russian will rank second.

There will be no wild animals except in menageries. Rats and mice will have been exterminated. The horse will have become practically extinct. A few of high breed will be kept by the rich for racing, hunting and exercise. The automobile will have driven out the horse. Cattle and sheep will have no horns. They will be unable to run faster than the fattened hog of today. A century ago the wild hog could outrun a horse. Food animals will be bred to expend practically all of their life energy in producing meat, milk, wool and other by-products. Horns, bones, muscles and lungs will have been neglected.

There will probably be from 350,000,000 to 500,000,000 people in America and its possessions by the lapse of another century. Nicaragua will ask for admission to our Union after the completion of the great canal. Mexico will be next. Europe, seeking more territory to the south of us, will cause many of the South and Central American republics to be voted into the Union by their own people.

Believe it or not, most of these predictions come from one man who got far more predictions right. But you all know the sort of things I'm talking about. Moon colonies, robots in every home, education by instant download, that sort of thing. There were a lot of grand predictions made about how wondrous this new millenium would be.

A few days ago, we celebrated the changing of another year. I'm sure more than one of you walked outside your door on Thursday morning and said to yourselves "Hunh. So this is 2009. It looks exactly the same as 2008." The funny thing is, 2009 is exactly like 2008. Or is it? Sometimes it seems like the same old same old year after year, but look closely at the things around you. You might notice that your favorite apple tree is just a little bit taller. Your little nephew or niece has advanced a grade in school. Dad is napping just a little more often. These are tiny little changes, but they accumulate. 2009 is not like 1959. 1959 is not like 1909. 1909 is not like 1859. If we consider the predictions made 110 years ago, it's clear that it's not always easy to predict what the accumulation of these changes will be.

Out here in Julesburg, we're surrounded by farmland. If I travel two blocks to the east, I'll be standing in a cornfield. This field has corn in it just about every year. It's always the same. But it isn't really. It's always corn, but it's never the same corn. The old corn dies in the winter and its seed is planted in the spring. The new corn is like the old corn, but it isn't the same.

Have you ever considered what it's like to be a kernel of corn? (holds up a corn kernel) You know, there's an entire plant in here? This kernel is a legitimate self-contained life-form. This kernel is a living thing, yet to reach it's true potential, it has to stop being a seed. This kernel has to sprout. It must take root, break out of its shell, spread its little baby leaves and grow brand new leaves. Only then will it really start to be a corn stalk. (plants corn in pot) Now you could come back to this pot day after day and the changes would be negligible. You would look at the pot and say nothing has changed. Thankfully, this is the land of imagination, and we can speed things up a little. (pours gamma-irradiated neucleo-gro plant food on the seed, causing it to grow to adulthood in seconds.) Here, where anything our minds can conceive is possible, we can do that. Out in the real world, That would probably kill the plant instantly.

By now you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with anything.

What's the number one tradition of new Year's? It's the making of resolutions. Why do we do it? It's because New Year's is an observation of change. We don't have the ability to change the world. It's a very big world, and we are a very small part of it. Fixing all that is wrong with the world is a major undertaking even for the one who created it. We can't change the world, but we can change ourselves.

I know many of you have resolved to change something about yourselves in order to improve yourselves. Perhaps it is to lose weight, or to be more forgiving, to smile more, to get that job you've been wanting, to grow a fluffier tail, to stop visiting the Yiffco website, to update all your comics on time for the next twelve months, etc. All of these are laudable goals, but we must keep in mind that they are goals. Not final goals. We will continue growing once we have done these things, but it is not always possible to change these things about ourselves instantly. It takes time to mature. Sometimes we may get frustrated at our inability to be what we want to be. we look to the Heavens and say "God, why don't you just change me? I'm so pathetic! I'm such a loser! Make me into something else, and hurry!"

God can do a lot of things. He's God, of course he can. But He can't do that which defies logic. For instance, He can't MAKE someone love Him, because if it's not voluntary, it isn't love. If God just spoke a word and made us each completely perfect, it would be pointless because it would not be real. One of my resolutions is to update things on time. Let me put this to you: Would it be better to do this because I have developed a sense of responsibility and I want to be reliable to my readers, or because I was under some sort of magical compulsion like the victim of a pandora's spell? I'd certainly prefer the latter, I'll tell you.

God intends for us to grow into His likeness the same way a kernel of corn grows into a cornstalk. Slowly, gradually. (gestures to the stalk, which is now turning quite brown.) Not like this. Forced growth isn't good for anyone. Not corn, and not Christians.

Let's start over with another seed. (pulls out the dead corn stalk and puts in an apple seed) We heard a lot of predictions that seem far-out to us, who actually live here in the future and know how the 20th century turned out, but I'm sure those predictions seemed perfectly reasonable at the time. You can't always tell how the future is going to turn out. Take this seed. What will it be? Macintosh? Golden delicious? Granny Smith? While it's just a seed, it's impossible to tell. But God knows. He wrote the DNA of this seed to be what he wanted it to be. We may expect a Fuji and be disappointed when it turns out to be a red delicious, but it would be pointless to chide the tree for not being a Fuji. It will be what it is meant to be. We don't know what that is, but we do know that it will be an apple tree, as long as it is well cared-for.

That's how it works for us too. We don't always know our destiny. God seldom points to us and says "You will be a king. You will be a mighty man of valor. You will be the father of nations." Those who were told such things were fortunate, and yet their fortunes never unfurled the way they expected. David, Gideon and Abraham all found themselves in positions where they wondered what had gone wrong. But God knows our destiny, and He will bring us to it just as He brought David, Gideon and Abraham to theirs.

So when you find yourself discouraged because you're not growing the way you want to or as fast as you want to, cheer up. The trick is to just keep growing. Put behind you your days as a seed and keep moving forward. God is our gardener, and He will insure we become beautiful, fruit-bearing trees. If you haven't accepted Jesus as your Lord, that's the first thing you need to do, because He is the living water which will enable you to change from a seed to a seedling in the first place.

Today's reading: Mark 4:26-32
26 And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
27 And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.
28 For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
29 But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.
30 And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?
31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.