Asking the Clergy: What is your sermon for the new year?
Jan. 1 ushers in a new year, a time for celebration and for reflection on 2020’s legacy of division and pandemic hardship. This week’s clergy discuss how they will inspire their congregations with messages of spiritual renewal, reconciliation and hope for 2021.
The Rev. George Dupree
Pastor, Living Water Full Gospel Church, Riverhead
There is no doubt that 2020 has been an unprecedented year. Social distancing, isolation, sheltering at home and quarantine have become familiar phrases. Too many people we know have become sick, and too many have died from COVID-19.
We pray for help, we pray for a cure, and we search for hope and peace. During these terrible times, please remember that God is with you, and he is your source of hope and peace. No matter what you’re facing you’re not alone; God is with you. Maybe he’ll remove the trouble, or maybe he’ll give you the courage to go through it, but he’s with you.
As people of faith, we find hope in the Scriptures. The daily habit of Bible reading will sustain your hope. "You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word." (Psalms 119:114) "I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in your word." (Psalms 119:147)
We come closer to God and approach him with an open heart, fully convinced that nothing will keep us at a distance from him. So wrap your heart tightly around hope, knowing that God always keeps his promises.
Rabbi Joel M. Levenson
Midway Jewish Center, Syosset
What will you remember from 2020? What will you want to forget?
All of us have been offended by someone, have suffered some wrongs or inflicted them. Too often we recall when we were the victims and forget when we offended. Too often we remember someone's unfulfilled promise and forget the resolve we did not keep.
On the last Shabbat of 2020, we read the Torah story of 12 brothers that inspired the Broadway musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Among the brothers is Judah, who seeks to get the youngest brother, Benjamin, out of prison. It was this care for a brother that would make him the leader among them. As Jews, we are named for Judah, the one who acts on behalf of a brother.
At this time, is there somebody you should be in touch with? Have insensitive words or harsh deeds or just the passage of time created a rift? Do you wonder if somebody still cares? Is there somebody who wonders if you've forgotten them? Have you been dreaming about what it would be like to get together again? Parent, brother, sister, some other member of the family or an old friend? Why wait another year? Torah raises some poignant questions for us to consider.
The Very Rev. Michael T. Sniffen
Dean, Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City
Approaching a new year carries even more spiritual weight than usual in this time of pandemic. Our families and communities experience hardship and struggle every year. This year, the struggle has been shared by all. Prayers and material support for those risking their lives for others, day after day, have strengthened our commitment to mutual care. Seen through the lens of faith, the generosity we have witnessed in these days gives us reason to hope.
The word religion comes from the Latin religare, which means to fasten or to tie. In this sense, the pandemic has been (and is) a religious experience. We are more firmly fastened to one another through shared loss and grief as well as through our hope for tomorrow.
In the Christian tradition, Jan. 1 is the Feast of the Holy Name and the eighth day of Christmas. It is a time to renew our commitment to a life of love and service. The pandemic has been tragic. It has also taught us that there is nothing more important than loving care for one another. May the turning of the year bring restored confidence in God’s love for the whole world and an unflagging commitment to love and serve our neighbors as Christ Jesus loves and serves us.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.
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