Into 2021… 

Grant Forrest, Business Manager at Lee Abbey Devon led community prayers on New Year’s Eve.  Our reading was 1 Kings 3:4-14. 

The eve of a new year is often used as a pause point – to look back and to look to the future. Maybe you, like me, have already started your New Year resolutions? My first run of 2021 was yesterday in the woods, although I’ve not stopped eating the chocolate yet!

This year has been unlike any other, ever!

What does 2020 conjure up for you? A year of disappointments? A year of uncertainty? The heartache of loss, of furlough, and the grieving of not seeing family and friends?
Maybe a year of opportunity? What has this year given you time to do? What new things have you learnt?
We’ve seen major corporations brought to their knees as the money runs dry in their business models, and we’ve seen scientists work ferociously on a single goal to create a vaccine and succeed.

What was thought in March to be a pandemic of a few weeks is most likely going to last over a year. We are now told to set our hopes on 5th April 2021. No, the Second Coming hasn’t been predicted by Boris! As announced on the 30th December 2020, we find ourselves hoping for the country to regain normality in time for Easter. To be fair, the Easter story isn’t a bad focus for hope.

Solomon is seeking God. He finds Him and is given a moment of opportunity. How would you respond if God asked you: “What can I give you? Ask”.

I’d hope that given that opportunity I would ask for the same as Solomon did:

 “Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?” (1 Kings 3:9 Message)

The amazing thing is that, as we pause and pray, we too can meet with God, maybe without burning all the Lee Abbey sheep as an offering (although we will enjoy the lamb on New Year’s Eve). We can meet with God in prayer and ask God for this amazing gift: A God-listening heart so that you can lead well.

With the recent Government announcements, the subsequent conference calls as plans for guests are cancelled once again, the closing of our self-catering accommodation and looking at our financial models to see the impact, it is easy to feel deflated. I suspect most of you do too. The constant working towards being ready and the numerous times the carpet is pulled from under your feet is deflating. We cry out to God: Why?

Yet he gives us the gift of a God-listening heart to lead well. And so we take our deflation and disappointment, our grieving and pain, and we hold onto what is true, righteous and good. We know that we celebrate the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and are assured that God is doing a new thing. I’ve lost track of how many rainbows we’ve seen here at Lee Abbey!

In my heart I hear God’s call to step up to the plate, to lead with faith and hope. Hope in God. God promises Solomon a future that is more than he could have asked for, if he holds true to his focus on God.

As you enter 2021, what are you hoping in? What are you hoping for? Where are you putting your attention? What is God saying to you?

In a recent podcast John Eldridge encourages people to stop and pause twice a day to refocus on God. He suggests a simple prayer: “Jesus, I give everything and everyone to you”, and that we then pause for 60 seconds.

We need to be attuned to God’s spirit, His leading, and His comfort.

As Bishop Emma Ineson reflects in her book “Ambition”, it is not about putting our future hopes into our strategies, our plans, and our ambitions, but being focussed on the hope of Eternity.

In this hope of Eternity, we remain focussed on God and see His leading, being present in His Spirit.

Let us step forward into 2021 with our attention focussed on God, and our hope set on Eternity.

This was posted on 1 January 2021.

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