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.