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My New Year Resolution

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My New Year’s Resolution

Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Next Thursday is New Year’s Day; and it is part of our tradition to make our New Year’s Resolutions. According to the Wikipedia Encyclopedia the ten most popular resolutions are number one: to lose weight, followed by pay off debts, save money, get a better job, get fit, eat right, get a better education, drink less alcohol, quit smoking and reduce stress.  According to a recent research quoted by that Encyclopedia, they found that while 52% of participants in a Resolution study were confident of success with their goals, only 12% actually achieved their goals.  According to the same study men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, that is, when they made small measurable goals rather than general ones like lose weight; while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.
            I do not know how successful the prophet Isaiah was with his resolution. I do not know if he shared it with friends or made measurable goals. I do not even know if it was a New Year’s Resolution, or he just woke up one morning determine to make a change in his life. He just said to himself enough is enough, and resolved to act differently; he just made up his mind: “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” Isaiah sounds determined to break the silence, to speak up.

It always been dangerous to speak up; to keep silent in any age has always been the surest way to personal success. In his book “The Audacity of Hope” Barack Obama writes about his run for the senate in 2004. Mr. Obama states that Alan Keyes, his opponent, was so sure of himself that it “disabled in him the instincts for self-censorship that allow most people to navigate the world without getting into constant fistfights.” In other words Mr. Keyes was brutally honest and shared everything that was in his mind. According to Obama Mr. Keyes proceeded during the course of a mere three months to offend just about everybody. Mr. Obama concluded: “Alan Keyes was an ideal opponent; all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and start planning my swearing-in ceremony.”

            In a society that is terrified of offending anyone; silence is more than golden is priceless. The most valuable skill for such a society is to be able to speak for a long time without actually saying anything. This is not only a fact of our society, but it has become part of life in church. You attend meetings where you hear reports and listen to proposed legislation without anyone rising up to speak to it. This is a disturbing trend especially for a group that claims to hear the voice of God in holy conferencing. So if we hear God as we speak to each other and discern together God’s will for us, what does it mean when we reward silence over speaking?

            I spend my childhood during the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. During that time speaking about politics would most likely cost you your life; and yet many spoke up as an act of rebellion and a hope for freedom.  Isaiah resolved to speak up, he made a commitment to himself not to keep silent or be quiet. Isaiah was doing this not for himself but for the sake of Zion, for the sake Jerusalem. Isaiah knew about the power of the word to free people and even to create the future. The story of Genesis states that God did not made creation but spoke it into reality. “God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.”

            Isaiah knew that the only way to fight the darkness that is in this world and even the darkness that still resides in our soul is through the power of the word. The gospel of John begins by saying that: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome. The true light that gives light to every human being was coming into the world. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

            But how can we struggle against the darkness when we have made a commitment to be quiet? Evil always prosper in an atmosphere of silence. It is silence that protects those involved in domestic violence and child abuse; it is silence that permits the exploitation of fellow human beings. Many of us heard about the people that lost millions in the fraud carried out by Bernard Madoff. Several of those persons where retired couples that had invested everything they had with Mr. Madoff. They thought that their future was secured after spending their lives, saving for their retirement; but now they find themselves penniless. If you knew about this fraud before one of your friends invested their retirement fund with Mr. Madoff would you had remain quiet or would you had spoken out in order to protect your friend?

            You see, silence may be able to help you move up in the world; because that way you will not offend anyone. But at the same time by remaining quiet you will not be able to help anyone either. It ultimately depends on the consequences of your silence, on what will happen to you and others if you remain quiet. Christian evangelism has suffered because of our fear of offending our friends and families. The gospel of John tells us that Jesus told his disciples: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Some people believe this statement others do not. But if you really believe that the road that others were on would lead them to eternal damnation it would be cruel for you to remain quiet, especially if you claim to love that person. The only way you can keep that information to yourself is if you were 100% sure that that statement was false.

            We live in different times. Sometimes I wish we were back in the 1940’s, 1950’s or even in the 1960’s. In those days we could speak with 100% certainty about many things. Today most of us are not 100% sure of anything and yet we are still call to speak to this generation. How can we speak with passion and conviction when we stand in the midst of doubts and uncertainty? Yes, I agree that the easiest way is to remain silent in the face of today’s reality, but we can’t. Precisely because no one can speak with 100% certainty is that we need for everyone to speak. It may be exactly what you have to say, that all of us need to hear. The prophet Jeremiah was called to deliver bad news to the nation of Israel, he was disliked by everyone. He was certain that he could not be elected to any office if the people had something to say about it. One day he decided to just be silent, so he said to himself: “Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:8-9)

            You see once you have had a personal experience with God, you cannot remain silent. You need to share. The joy of know God personally is so great that you will explode if you try to keep it in. It is not about offending people, not even about trying to make them like you it is about just sharing what God has done in your life. You do not even enter into an argument about what is truth and what is false. One time a blind man was healed by Jesus and the religious leaders of his days wanted to enter into an argument about who Jesus was; to their questions the blind man responded saying: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”  (John 9:25)

“For Freehold’s sake I will not keep silent, for this congregation’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings and presidents your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” You have a responsibility to make this church all that God wants it to be; you cannot be quiet. Tell to all what God has done in your life. The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7) How can I test everything and keep what is good if no one is talking? How can I learn from others if they remain quiet? This is no time to be quiet.

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