Happy New Year, friends!

Some of you followed the drama and heartbreak of the last-minute cancellation of the Twin Cities marathon last October—due to unseasonable and dangerous heat. (Our Worship Director Clark Weyrauch was poised to compete but, being intrepid, he found another marathon the next weekend and crushed it.)

Some days later, I met with a friend who had planned to run what would have been her first marathon. After training for months, she was deeply disappointed, even though she understood why it had to be cancelled. She asked if everything that happens is supposed to teach us something. We can’t answer that question cosmically, but it seems to me that God CAN teach us something through anything that happens. But not everything happens SO THAT God can teach us something. And we chuckled together at the idea that God would disappoint 10,000 runners to teach one person some indiscernible lesson.

Still, she was struggling with the disappointment and recognized that she needed another way to think about what happened.

And then we talked about an idea shared with me by a pastoral colleague: learning to hold things loosely.

We can keep a pretty firm grip on the things that matter to us, so when expectations are unfilled, or things get cancelled, or people go their own way, we experience grief or disappointment. This is true of planned events, traditions, relationships, even long-held values. Because God CAN and DOES continue to speak to us, teach, transform, and shape us, we never know when we might need to loosen our grip to create space to receive something new. So we hold things loosely.

This doesn’t mean we never plan, train, expect. Of course, we do. AND by holding expectations loosely, we might discover that if things don’t go as planned, the unexpected can bring a necessary and life-giving shift. A child may not fulfill our dreams of college but may find deep satisfaction in a trade. A marathon may get cancelled and we learn that we can run farther than we ever dreamed. A favorite hymn might need to be set aside due to outdated language, and someone else feels more welcome in worship and brings a friend who becomes our friend. A candidate we would never vote for gets elected and we discover their gifts for bipartisan consensus building around a key issue.

Trinity, you have done a great job of learning to hold things loosely as we navigated a world of newness over the past half dozen years. New staff, building changes, pandemic, changed worship times and faith formation models, deeper investment in our community, particularly around housing. The list is long and multi-faceted. And you have held things loosely enough to find a new way forward that is vibrant and hope-filled.

This new year, I think about Mary and Elizabeth and shepherds and magi­—everyone who had to let go their grip on ancient expectations in order to receive a brand-new thing, an unexpected infant Messiah. As the Epiphany star lights our way, we are reminded of God’s guiding, renewing, steadfast, and surprising presence in our world. We can ease our grip, believe in prayer, relax into mystery, expect angels, and trust that God is speaking. And that we are loved.

Happy New Year in Christ,

Pastor Chris