Auld Lang Syne
Well around the world celebrations have already begun as people ring out 2017 and ring in the new year the year of our Lord 2018
Samoa, Tonga and Kiritimati (AKA Christmas Island) are the first places on the planet to welcome the New Year which they did at about 6 o’clock this morning our time
Don’t bother googling it, just trust me and listen to the sermon
There are many ways that people around the world celebrate the coming of the new year, if you just google weird new years traditions you’ll see what I mean
Not now you’re supposed to be listening to the sermon remember
All of the weird traditions aside, there is one tradition that seems to be almost universal even though no one really understands why…the singing of the song Auld Lang Syne
Now I’m willing to bet that at some point in your life you have sang this song but have probably never stopped to consider the lyrics or what they mean
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld, acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne. For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet. For auld lang syne”
The song comes from a Presbyterian poet by the name of Robert Burns who lived back in the 1700’s and is not written in English or even old English as you might suspect but is actually written in what is known as Broad Scots
The term “Auld lang Syne” is most commonly translated as “Times gone by”
So in essence the song begins by asking the question whether or not it is right that the old times be forgotten and is generally interpreted as a call to remember long standing friendships.
It’s not really a happy poem, in fact there are 5 other verses besides the one we read and all of them are very reflective in nature carrying a touch of sadness and sorrow in them
Yet somehow this song has come to be synonomous with New Years
New Years is often thought of as a new beginning, new birth, a fresh slate from which to start all over
It is that moment that marks our movement through time and space in which we say good-bye to the past year with all that it held and hello to all that is new yet this song bids us to keep those memories and not let them fade
Now by this point you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the Bible, either that or you are still googling strange new years customs…stop it and listen to the sermon because the Bible speaks directly to this subject
If you have your Bible or your Bible app open it up to Paul’s letter to the Philippians the third chapter and I want to read for you verses 12 to 14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Now as I’ve told you before, whenever I read a passage to try and understand it there are certain things that I look for
Sometimes it’s repeated words and other times it’s those often insignificant little words like “but”
Paul starts out in this passage by saying how hard he tries to become like Christ even though he has yet to reach that goal
And that’s when it happens, that little word “but” and Paul says, “But one thing I do”
I want to be like Jesus and I try to be like Jesus even though I’m not yet satisfied with the results, “BUT”
This word signifies a turning point in what he is saying, a definitive moment that we need to take note of
Although he may not have yet attained his goal of being just like Christ or maybe because he has not yet attained his goal of being like Christ, Paul says “One thing I do”
Now I think that Paul must have been a biker
No honestly there were many bikers in the Bible
The Bible says that the roar of Moses’ triumph was heard in the hills while Joshua’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.
In Moses tells the people that it is not the sound of a victory that they hear while says “You lift me up on the wind; you make me ride on it, and you toss me about in the roar of the storm.
And describes Elijah as a “hairy man, with a girdle of leather”
So why not Paul? After all his description of doing only 1 thing is reminiscent of changing gears on a motorcycle because while it is technically one thing it is made up of multiple actions…clutch, shifter, throttle etc.
Paul says he’s doing only one thing but it has two parts 1. forgetting the past 2. straining forward all of which he says takes coordination and perseverance
First Paul says that he is forgetting about what lies behind him and Paul had a lot to forget
He had relentlessly persecuted the early church and had used his authority as a member of the ruling Pharisees to imprison and even kill converts to Christianity all in the name of God
By his own admission he was “the chief of all sinners” and he could have allowed that past to cripple him with guilt and anxiety
But, he said, I am forgetting all of that, I am leaving it in the past and not allowing it to determine my present
That’s what he meant by forgetting it, not allowing it to decide the present, not living in it
I’m sure that he couldn’t physically block out those memories but he was making the conscious decision not to live there any more
What was Israel’s biggest problem in the O.T.? Every time they faced the slightest trial they immediately looked back to Egypt
If only we were still living there we wouldn’t be facing this problem
Paul reminds us that living in the past, whether good or bad is going to limit us and hinder us in the present
It would be like trying to drive down the road navigating your way using only your mirrors
The mirrors are made for the occasional glimpse while the windshield is big and broad and is made for you to see what lies ahead
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
But as I said Paul’s “one thing” was actually multitasking and so the second step of that one thing, Paul says, is to press on, to move forward
Notice that Paul says “One thing I do” not “One thing I’m going to do” or one thing I am going to get around to some day” he said “One thing I do”
Paul was living and acting in the present not the past, not the future
I recently came across this quote, “Do you know what the busiest day in the world is going to be? It’s not Christmas. It’s not the day before and after your anniversary. It is ‘Someday.’ Everyone in the world has something scheduled to do ‘someday’.
The problem is that someday never comes and the truth of it is that the only thing that we actually have is today!
Paul was the ultimate example of living each and every day to its full potential
I mean even when he was sitting there in jail in Rome, shackled to a Roman soldier he didn’t just sit there and do nothing thinking about all the stuff he would eventually do someday
He wrote letters to the churches, held praise and worship services and even converted some of the people who imprisoned him
But even with this Paul wasn’t satisfied, he says in verse 12 ‘I’m still not there yet. There’s still more that needs to be done and so as long as God gives him the opportunity he will “press on” towards the goal to win the prize
Question, What was the goal he was pressing on towards?
Was it to make it to Heaven? No I don’t think so because that was the prize.
The goal was to make as much of a difference as he could with each and every day that God gave him so that when he did receive the prize, the Father would say to him, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
What is your goal in 2018? Is it to lose 25 lbs? Is it to eat healthier? Is it to exercise more? Those are all worthwhile goals but what about adding to the list To make God proud of me each and every day that He gives me.
To press on each and every day to try and look a little bit more like Jesus, forgetting what lay behind, good or bad, and taking each day as a new opportunity with which to bring glory and honour to God the Father
If you have been in my office than you have probably noticed that I have a mirror that sits on the floor beside my bookshelves and taped to that mirror is a scripture verse, which says, “…put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator”
2 verses later Paul continues by explaining what that new self should look like if it is going to be authentic
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne?
Well it’s true that we can and probably shouldn’t wipe the past completely from our memories for even the Bible talks about the importance of remembering certain things
But if nothing else, Paul makes it clear that we don’t…we can’t live in the past
The cost is just too great
Instead we are called to press on, to make the days ahead, however many they might be, even better than the days that are behind
To strive after that goal of becoming like Christ so that when the day comes that the Father gives us our reward we can hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant. You look just like my Son Jesus.”