“Agnus Dei” from Cantus Missae in Eb Major
Josef Gabriel Rheinberger
Lamb of God,
Who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy upon us.
Lamb of God.
Grant us peace.
The Mass Ordinary
A new year. A time for resolutions and change, optimism and planning. A new year is always a welcome thing, but feels especially appropriate after the long, challenging, and unexpected year that was 2021. And though the troubles of 2021 didn’t disappear as the clock struck midnight, I think we are right to feel optimistic.
But not for the reason you may be thinking.
You see, every year around this time, I find myself thinking a lot about the prospect of sanctification, likely because, in light of our recent resolutions, this is a time of year where people tend to outline, at least in their mind, the type of person they want to be 365 days down the line.
Christian sanctification is different than other resolutions (like “honoring God’s temple” by giving it a killer six pack this year) because it can often be hard to see.
Of course, “a bad tree cannot bear good fruits,” but how do I measure the quality of my spiritual fruit output?! Is it measured by the amount of my self-sacrifice as I give my money and time? Is it the depth of my scriptural knowledge as I read the bible? Or is it the amount of people I make smile as I go throughout my every day?
…Or is it even meant to be measured?
My hope for us all this year is that we remember that following God’s will is not a competitive sport. You don’t lose “Jesus Points” for giving 9.9% as your tithe, and you don’t get “Jesus Points” for going on a mission trip.
It sounds ridiculous to say, but a lot of times we do fall into the trap of living for “Jesus Points.” We treat our sanctification like a deposit, giving greatly to the church in time and money, and then cashing in on those points to live however we please. On the other hand, this mindset can also lead us into believing that we are never doing quite enough, since there will always be a missed opportunity to nab a few JP’s.
But in the Agnus Dei, all verbs are in the present tense. It is not a future matter – “When I get enough Jesus Points, I will be forgiven” – and it is not a past matter – “Since I stocked up on those JP’s last year, I’m set for at least another year or so!”
He takes away our sins now. We ask for His mercy now. We ask for peace now. The process of sanctification has no past, no pressures, no points.
It’s falling in love with God each day, however that looks for you. Happy New Year.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
Director of Music
First Presbyterian Church