2017 is the Year of the Rooster.
The Chinese have zodiac signs that follow a 12-year cycle featuring a specific animal each year. The rooster prompts an image of crowing and the cry to wake up and get to work! Those who are born in the Year of the Rooster are perceived as being honest, intelligent, personable, independent and ambitious. Myriad beliefs are associated with the tradition.
There is a bit of wistfulness that Christians do not dedicate each year with a singular focus. Imagine the impact on our lives if this were The Year of Reverence!
Our year would begin with an acknowledgement of our smallness. We are not God. We simply are a unique soul created and claimed by God. Because of our smallness, we live humbly in relationship with the One who is greater than we. Reverence is a response to this feeling of humility.
Reverence involves the elements of worship, prayer, and the reading and interpretation of Scripture. Reverence also includes awe, respect, discernment, shame and outrage.
Awe and Respect — We know what it is to experience awe in the presence of something greater than our imagining or ability: the Hudson River, Handel’s Messiah, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the channeling of electricity, a computer that fits in the palm of our hand, a heart removed from one body and transplanted in another. When we are reverent, we respect that which creates this sense of awe.
Discernment — Paul Woodruff, a humanities professor at the University of Texas in Austin, suggests that there is a reverent response to that which is not transcendent, when we are “in the presence of something base.” For example, “the most reverent response to a tyrant . . . is to mock him.” Reverence compels a response, even though the response may be disconcerting.
Shame and Outrage — Shame provides perspective. There is conduct that is unacceptable. There are moments when outrage is reverent. A father once shared with me his reaction when he entered a room and found his grade-school son being choked by his friend. The father grabbed his house guest and threatened his life. “Don’t you ever touch my son again or I will kill you!” The father’s outrage was because of his reverence for his son’s life.
Reverence is not merely calm and deferential. Reverence requires a response when God’s creation is threatened.
Laurie A. McNeill is a member of Hudson River Presbytery and she serves as a Teaching Elder in Highland and Marlboro, New York.