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Pace: In with the new...

There’s a lot that’s new happening in my life presently. Like many of you, I recently celebrated the new year by thinking about some fresh goals for the next 365 days. Our college students returned this past week for a new semester, many of whom are hoping that these next four months will bring increased opportunities for their academic and personal journey. At Oxford College, we’ve opened a new student center, which also houses many new offices, including my own (come see us!). The new working space has already offered me a different way of looking at my work and is giving me renewed energy.

The new in our lives can be both rejuvenating and unsettling. It often brings change, and that’s not always welcome. It’s not as simple as “in with the new and out with the old.” The changes in our lives matter deeply.

There is a passage of scripture near the end of the first chapter of John’s gospel where John talks about Jesus as the Lamb of God. He reminds us of Jesus’ baptism as the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove and remained on Jesus. John is telling the community about something new, that Jesus is new and may be an unsettling presence. His brilliance is in his telling them about Jesus’ baptism.

Baptism signifies something new. For me, as a Christian, baptism means that I am to put on new clothes, to clothe myself with the way of Jesus. This is an invitation to a new way of seeing the world, my co-workers, strangers, friends, and even enemies – to see them as children of God. I am to see them not simply as they are, but as they will be in God’s coming kingdom.

Later in this same scripture passage, John was standing with two disciples when Jesus came near. “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” he said to them. So they followed Jesus and when Jesus noticed they were following him, he turned and asked them, “What are you looking for?” They wanted to know where he was staying. Therefore, he said to them, “Come and see.”

That simple invitation is the invitation of the new. Come and see what is ahead in this new year, new semester, new space. Come and see who might be here, who was previously invisible to us. Come and see where love is hidden and might yet be found. Come and see.

They went to see where he was staying and one of the ones who followed him, Simon (later called Peter) proclaimed to others that they had found the Messiah. This confession of Jesus’ identity was his way of embracing the new. Simon or Peter would go on to cultivate the earliest community that we now know as the church. He relied on the old, how it had shaped him, and then he took a step out in faith and leaned into the new, because of the simple invitation, “Come and see.”

This invitation is open to any of us, no matter our beliefs. At times, we’re all challenged with the unsettling of what’s new in our lives. Our instinct can be to run or even hide, but the invitation to “come and see” holds out the potential for a new thing to happen.

What new things are ahead of you this year? What will you have to give up or change to embrace them? I invite and challenge you (and me) to take a leap of faith and be open to new possibilities this year. Come and see.

The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University.