Final Parish New Year’s Resolution

I like groups of 3—very Trinitarian. So we have 3 resolutions: practice offering yourself in love, commit to adult formation learning more about God and your faith, and the final one, hopefully the easiest, come to church.

We need you here. The Body of Christ is not complete without you.

I realize it is a new world. I realize life is complicated. I realize there are other commitments and obligations that vie for your time. I realize sometimes you just need a day to sleep in. I realize that the world is crazy and it seems that we have lost touch with God. Me too.

We need you here. The Body of Christ is not complete without you.

I could mention that many people that work so hard to make church lovely and meaningful. We work all week to prepare music and readings, practice and make sure we have help, print bulletins. We want everyone who comes to feel welcome and have an easy time participating and understanding. I think we do a good job, and I want to thank the ushers, the altar guild, the chalice bearers, the choir, the acolytes, the staff, people who clean and decorate, the properties committee—everyone who offers themselves to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

We need you here. The Body of Christ is not complete without you.

I could also mention that we keep statistics measuring Average Sunday Attendance, which we report to the diocese and national church every year. Our growth and health is measured this way and makes a difference in funding and support. Our church attendance needs to keep growing. People pay attention.

We need you here. The Body of Christ is not complete without you.

But all of these things aside, we need to be a part of a worshiping community to be a whole, healthy, holy person. We need each other. We need to worship. Need it, deeply. We are drawn to God like a magnet, and we know God best when we are together doing God’s work, living into our baptismal vows, celebrating our blessings and praying for our needs, getting motivated with carry the love of Jesus into the world.

We need you here. The Body of Christ is not complete without you.

Please make a commitment of regular attendance to church on Sunday in 2018.

Parish New Year’s Resolution #2

I like lists. So there will be a short list of resolutions. And the second one is adult education. I would like the parish adults to be more active and intentional about learning more about God and the church. Studies show that churches whose adults care about growing in their faith are more successful, more likely to grow. We need to bump up our efforts.

And luckily I have a plan. The diocese has offered us a free year trial of an online adult education program. This will supplement the wonderful work that Rev. David Hill does on Sunday morning, and maybe even overlap!

In order to help us make the best use of this, the diocese has also given us money to hire The Rev. Joshua Caler to help us kick this off. Many of you met Rev. Caler when he took the services when I was in the Holy Land. He is going to study the program, introduce it to the parish, and hopefully present to us an online study option for Lent. Expect him to pick your brains about what you need and the best way to help you to learn.

Our hearts are filled with a deep desire for God. We are pulled toward God like a magnet. God wants us to know God more, to pursue God. We do that through prayer, reading the Bible, knowing the saints and the history of the church, and teasing out theological concepts. Follow your impulse to God, and we will find ways to know more together.

Epiphany!

As we endure the extremely cold weather that reminds me daily of the Christmas hymn In the Bleak Midwinter, we have left Advent hymns for another year and are moving quickly towards the season of Epiphany, starting on January 6, when we remember that Jesus came to all people. Like Advent hymns and Christmas carols, I find the Epiphany hymns tend to foreshadow his ministry and death, so that even as we sing

“Star of wonder, star of night,
“Star with royal beauty bright,
“Westward leading,still proceeding,
” Guide us to thy perfect light.”

We know that soon the verse will be

“Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
“Breathes a life of gathering gloom,
“Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
“Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”

Our priest Gayle returned recently from a tour of the Holy Land, bringing with her healing oil containing myrrh. A bitter perfume indeed, and one that lingers, it was the first time I have encountered it.

We are so accustomed to carols and manger scenes that include the Magi that it’s easy to forget that by the time of their arrival Jesus was two or three years old and presumably no longer using a manger for his bed, but I do find it disquieting to be reminded of all that awaits him. So the final verse reminds us,

“Glorious now behold him arise,
“King and God and sacrifice,
“Alleluia, alleluia,
“Earth to heaven replies.”

Parish New Year’s Resolution #1

Happy New Year everyone! This is the time of year to look ahead and try to do better, to assess and plan. So I will be offering the church 3 resolutions to ponder, 3 ways to do a little better in 2018. St. John’s is doing great, but God is always moving us to more. So the first resolution is: to do better at offering ourselves as a living sacrifice. Let’s start big and bold!!

I spent most of last week with my family. My boys are always competing with each other, and wanting to hear that they are special. And of course they are, each with their own gifts and goodness. It was the grandchildren that really captivated my attention though. They are little- 3, 2, and 1. And you can just see them figuring out how to navigate the world, experimenting with relationships and behavior to learn how they want to be.

Life for my grandkids is a marvelous science project. They tried out sharing, dancing, putting toys down the sink. They continually looked back at their parents to see the reaction to whatever it was they were trying out. Sometimes they needed affirmation, and sometimes not. Learning to share, take turns, say sorry—it is hard work! Constant hugs and high fives were necessary to reinforce good behavior. We adults need to make civil and loving behavior worth it, both by demonstrating it and by valuing it.

Church is in many ways the same. We come to church trying out how to be our best selves, how to be good, how God might want us to be. And we don’t expect that there might be conflict, that people might not behave or cooperate the way we want them to, that we might be frustrated. Thankfully that doesn’t happen all the time. But it does happen. Lesson #1 is that everyone, everyone has challenges and hard times, even when it seems like it is only me who struggles.

Because there is so much happening, and because we all care so much about God and this church, disagreement and competing priorities are inevitable. So how do we respond to that? Most of the time, great. We respond in love, we are kind, we forgive. But sometimes it isn’t that easy. And that is when we have to offer ourselves. That is when we have to give up being right or getting our way. That is when we have to put aside our needs and serve someone else. That is when we offer love, kindness, compassion and/or understanding.

We have an opportunity to use church as a grand experiment, and then take the learnings from that into the world. If we can get it right at church, the compassion and kindness and sacrifice, then we can practice it in our lives during the week. But we have to be intentional. We have to believe it is possible. And we have to look for situations in which we feel frustrated and can offer ourselves into that moment as an offering of love. Not by brute force, but by the simple acknowledgement that we will not always get our way, and that is just fine.

So, for our first new year’s resolution, I propose that we get better at loving one another. It seems the best place to begin.