Hi friends and Happy New Year!
Like so many other churches, we have adopted the “star word” tradition at RCC to coincide with Epiphany. This is the 4th year we have done it, so my sermon is brief, as we invite people from the congregation to stand up and share their “star stories” from the year before. Last year my word was affirmation, so I talked a little bit about that and also about star words in general. If you didn’t get a star word and would like one, please let me know! I’m happy to draw and send you one.
Rehoboth Congregational Church
January 5, 2020
My Affirmation Journey
I have an important update.
Two years ago, I stood up here on Star Sunday and began my star story about my star word, responsibility, by saying the following:
12 months ago, I thought I would stand up on Star Sunday in 2018 and tell you all of the responsible things I did in 2017. I thought I would tell you that I revolutionized the way I organized my house and office (which I tried to do); I thought I would tell you that I finally figured out a good system for dealing with my taxes (which I mostly did); and I thought I would tell you that I finally made a long-overdue dentist appointment (which I did not).
Three years later, I am happy to report that – mostly because of the encouragement of Jen Healy (thank you, Jen!) I finally made that dentist appointment this year.
And I even went six months after that!
Which is my way of saying that you do not have to give up your star word just because the year is over. The lessons that you have learned this year or the goals you have set or the inspiration that you have, perhaps, found – all of this you can carry with you into the new year as you receive your new star word.
Three years ago, we introduced star words for the first time at RCC. For those of you who are new to Star Sunday, we celebrate it the Sunday closest to Epiphany, which is the Christian feast commemorating the arrival of the Wise Men to the manger. Epiphany is January 6th – the 12th day of Christmas. We receive paper stars with words written on them. Then, like the wise men who followed a star to bring gifts to Jesus, we let the words on our stars guide us throughout the year.
Sometimes the words turn into our intentions and goals for the year. Sometimes the words teach us lessons. Sometimes the words give us a different perspective on things. Sometimes the words frustrate us. Sometimes the words confuse us all year and bring us back to Star Sunday saying, “I think maybe I did something wrong.”
But the cool part is that there is no right or wrong way to “do” star words. And we see this, year after year, as people from our congregation share their own star stories from the year before. Not only are everyone’s words different – but their perspectives about them are different, as well.
This year my word was affirmation. I have to be honest, this word perplexed me from the very beginning. I am not even sure I really knew what it meant, although as soon as I drew it, it was sort of like when you buy a new car and suddenly start seeing it everywhere – I started hearing the word all the time.
The first time I heard the word affirmation was a few days after Star Sunday on a podcast; the host and her guest were talking about setting goals and intentions and how it is important to say them out loud, to put them out into the universe as a way, not only of holding yourself accountable, but also of believing in yourself and what you are capable of.
They referred to this process of vocalizing goals and intentions as daily affirmations. Instantly I was intrigued, because this is something I have never been good at. I have always been hesitant to set goals (or, at least, say them out loud) because I have been afraid of what happens if I do not actually reach those goals. But I decided to push myself outside of my comfort zone and affirm, over and over and over again, what I thought what we, as a church, were capable of. I raised my expectations and set goals where I used to just say, “well let’s see what happens.”
I have talked about this, off and on, throughout the year; I think my most exciting moment of affirmation came as we approached the Hillside Takeover and, despite having to overcome multiple obstacles to get to the Tiki Bar, I bravely set a fundraising goal of $5,000 and was overwhelmed when we far exceeded that goal.
But my poignant moment came the morning after Giving Tuesday. We had set a fundraising goal of $2,019, one that, as the day went on, I was not sure we were going to reach. I went to sleep that night and we were still well under the $2,000 mark; I actually had a moment of regret where I was mad at myself for setting an unreachable goal. For the first time that year, my star word frustrated me more than anything.
The next morning, I logged into our PayPal account and saw that a few new donations came in; those donations, combined with the checks we had received in the office, totaled $2,019.65.
Now, in full disclosure, we had a few more donations come in over the next few day and, in the end, we ended up exceeding (I think) $2,200; however, in that moment, I was equally 1) relieved that we reached our goal and 2) needing to figure out what happens when you set an affirmation that you do not meet.
Right before the new year, I was listening to a personal finance blogger talk about the fact that she had not met her 2019 goal of maxing out her IRA contributions. She used it as an example of how sometimes we just do not meet the expectations of our own affirmations and why not reaching our goals should not deter us from setting them again (or, in the spirit of Star Sunday, from reaching for the stars!). Because we learn just as much from stating those affirmations and the journey to try to reach them as we do once we get there.
And, I would add, God is faithful as we take that journey.
And so I think I have taken two things out of my star word this year. First of all, I am excited now to continue to integrate affirmations into my life, both here at the church and also at home. But second of all, I think I need to be okay with giving myself the grace I need to potentially fall short. Because it is not about a destination, it is about the journey; and along the journey, God is faithful.
May you all see God’s faithfulness in the star words you choose this year; and may the light from that star illuminate your journey ahead.
May you find hope, wisdom and strength.
May you be inspired.
May you be frustrated at times.
And may your star word illuminate your year.
Thanks be to God!