You probably know that my favorite all-purpose scripture is 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
All-purpose or no, it seems there aren’t many scriptures more fitting for the start of a new year. Honestly, laziness probably factors more into my shortcomings than fear, but there is something about those three promises that steadies me; power, love, and a sound mind. These are our divine inheritance–every tool we need to succeed, no matter what our path.
I have trod some difficult ones, to be sure, but I have never walked them alone. I read once about Tashlich, a Jewish ceremony performed at the start of their new year in which bits of bread are cast into moving water, symbolizing the casting off of sin–both wrongs committed by us and against us.
I remember thinking—oh, if it were only as easy as casting bread upon water. And yet I think that in a way, it is. We make millions of conscious little decisions every day that determine our future—whether to clench the wrongs tighter, or to let them go. I like the Tashlich tradition because it contains two elements—you, with your willing hand, and the water which carries the wrong away. Not to mention the fact that it is not a once in a lifetime occurrence, but a ceremony constantly revisited.
We cannot begin anew without the water. And for me, that constantly renewing source has always been my Savior. I cannot throw those wrongs far enough away on my own strength.
I don’t pretend to understand how the incomprehensible suffering of one man millennia ago could possibly have any potency in the lives of individuals today, but I know this: when I have cried out to God, in the name of his Son, that I cannot possibly endure another moment, He has lifted me—not by changing my circumstances but by endowing me with power that is neither my own nor my due—he has given me understanding when no solution seemed possible, compassion when I thought I had none, and clarity to face impenetrable tasks.
My faith in the renewing and empowering effects of the atonement of Jesus Christ is the only source of peace in my life; I am not nearly enough on my own and my circumstances are as faulty as yours. In the Mormon church, we do not gather around and cast the symbols of our sin upon moving water, but we do gather each week to partake of another symbol—the sacrament. I suppose it is similar to the Catholic communion.
Our sons are ordained to be priests at the age of sixteen, if they desire it. They break bread and fill the sacrament cups with water and they kneel in front of their mothers and fathers and men three and four times their age and they offer a humble prayer consecrating that bread and water “to all the souls who partake of it” in remembrance of the body broken and the blood shed for us so that we might be strengthened, purified, and filled with hope.
And then our twelve and thirteen year old deacons bring those emblems of Christ to the congregation. They dress respectfully, and pass it reverently. When they turn fourteen they arrive at church earlier than anyone else to ensure that all is in order for the Sacrament to proceed smoothly. There is no greater joy for a mother than to see her sons walking in paths of virtue, to be able to receive, from her son’s hand, such an offering.
You are, symbolically, the pall bearers of the Living Christ. You bring to each of us, not just at the start of a new year, but every Sunday, the possibility of a clean slate and a spotless future. I am profoundly grateful for that. I progress through each day because of it and I am filled with hope for the future. There is no weakness I cannot make stronger; there is no wrong I cannot move past.
Here’s to a new efforts and leaving past failures behind. I hope you find strength beyond your own in fulfilling all your endeavors.