By Father Casey Shobe
The year is still only a few days old, so there may be a chance you’re still holding fast to whatever resolution(s) you made for 2020. Changing behavior is hard work, and habits can be extremely hard to break (although bad habits seem all too easy to establish!), so I commend anyone who is trying to do something to become healthier and happier this year.
In case you haven’t made any resolutions, and particularly if you’re the sort of person who scoffs at the whole idea, I invite you to pay careful attention this weekend in church. At both our Sunday services, we’ll recite the Baptismal Covenant, with all its holy promises and commitments. The Covenant is the heart of Episcopal Christianity, in which we lay out all the ways we believe followers of Jesus are meant to live.
I wonder if you, like me, have some work to do in honoring this foundational covenant? I wonder if you, like me, need to refocus on these promises, and the work it takes every single day to honor them? Perhaps they could even become the heart of some resolutions for the year?
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Now, scientists who study human behavior say that broadly defined desires for change seldom result in success. Which is why resolutions like “get healthier”, “eat better,” or “exercise more often” don’t usually work. In the same sense, the Baptismal Covenant may be so broad that it can make it hard to affect specific changes in your life. So, here’s my suggestion: Think of a specific action associated with each of the five covenantal promises.
For the second one it might be, “make a private confession with a priest this year,” or “use the ‘Four Point Apology’ every time I need to apologize.”
For the third it might be, “look for ways to talk about my faith with someone I know” or “carry invitation cards for Transfiguration in my wallet.”
For the fourth it could be, “don’t argue with people on social media” or “volunteer every month at an agency whose mission I support.”
For the fifth it might be, “write letters with the Peace Post once a month” or “read a book about racism this year.”
I don’t know what your specifics will be, but try coming up with something particular about each of these five holy promises. Something you can do. And then resolve to start doing that thing. Please don’t recite the promises again in church on autopilot, without much thought as to how you’ll do these big, holy things. Make a plan, pray for God’s help, and then get going.
Fr. Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Mtr. Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Fr. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.