In my sermon last weekend, I preached about New Year’s resolutions. I am not typically one to make such commitments, but lately I’ve been feeling that I shouldn’t put off for later what I know I should be doing today. I’m feeling more than usual the “fierce urgency of now,” as Blessed Martin Luther King, Jr. says. I don’t want to wait to do the sorts of things that make me a better person, a better priest, and a better follower of Christ. So why not use the start of the year to make some changes?
As Episcopalians, we are the beneficiaries of some wonderfully helpful “resolution starters.” They are the five core promises we make in the Baptismal Covenant. I say they are “starters,” because on their own, they are a little too broad to be successful resolutions on their own. Social scientists say that effective resolutions include specifics. We shouldn’t try to “eat healthier this year,” but commit to specific dietary changes. We shouldn’t try to “exercise more this year,” but commit to specific exercise we’ll do each week.
So, in that vein, I proposed five resolutions, based on each of the five baptismal promises.
In order to continue in the apostles teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers, what if you resolved to see the drive to church as the start of the service? What if we, literally and figuratively, set the phone down long before the bell chimes? What if we turned our mind and heart to God even before we entered the building?
In order to get better at persevering in resisting evil, repenting, and returning to the Lord, what if this year you resolved to make better apologies? Squeezing out an “I’m sorry,” is not usually enough to show we really mean it. Why are you sorry? Why was it wrong? How will you try to make it right? We can all make better, more wholehearted apologies, and this includes our apologies to God.
In order to become stronger at proclaiming by word and example the Good News of Christ, what if you resolved to give another hour a week, or another 1% of your income to the work of the church? The most compelling witness to our faith is the kind we do with our lives. We show what we believe by how we live, how we spend our time, and what we do with our money.
In order to seek and serve Christ in all persons and love your neighbor as yourself, what if you resolved to pray every day for that politician or leader who you would never vote for, who often does the very opposite of what you think is good or right? This honors a core teaching of Jesus (Matthew 5:44), and leaning into it can liberate us from the stranglehold of anger and outrage.
In order to strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being, what if you resolved to write letters with Peace Post? Peace Post meets in the Church Office one Sunday a month, and helps folks communicate with leaders on issues of justice and human dignity.
So, those are my five resolution suggestions. I’m working on all five. Hopefully, they strike a chord with you, too, or at least jog your imagination about how you could live more faithfully and lovingly this year.
Since Sunday, I’ve received a number of messages from folks with their own resolutions for 2023. One person is going to hand-write letters to people who mean a lot to her. Another is going to send 1% of her income to a specific organization. Another is going to shift the tone of her frequent “letters to the editor.”
I wonder what you might do differently this year? I wonder how the promises of your baptism could become a few new resolutions for you?