Resolution Rooted in Grace

There is something ridiculously exciting about the start of a New Year. The “ridiculous” part is simply that the date on which we start the year is, of course, entirely arbitrary. It could be February 1 (or 28 for that matter!) as well as January 1. But once you choose an actual date, that decision shapes your expectation that, indeed, January 1 is the start of an entirely new year.

The “exciting” part is that a new year invites a fresh start, a blank page on which to write your life story for the coming year, a reset for things that could have gone better, a chance to strengthen what is good, and the opportunity to launch some new dream or endeavor.

The church year doesn’t start on January 1; it began on the First Sunday of Advent (which already feels like a very long time ago!). But our first time of worship together in 2018 will fall one day after the Epiphany, that time we remember the magi who traveled by starlight across the continent to find the infant Jesus, the newborn king, and offer their gifts to him. The season of Epiphany is also a good time for fresh starts, because it focuses on Jesus as the light of the world, the light that came to illumine God’s love and grace, and the light that shines on in the darkness.

Often, we think of these opportunities for a fresh start in terms of resolutions. Resolutions are also both ridiculous and exciting. Exciting because the very name sounds rather wonderful – so grand, so purposeful, so, well, resolved.

The real beauty of resolutions, of course, is that they are about the future – about what we will do in a fresh and untainted new year. Which brings us to what is ridiculous about them. Perhaps because making resolutions simultaneously feels noble and costs nothing, actually keeping them proves a far more difficult endeavor. Perhaps not surprisingly, while 2/3 of all American’s make resolutions, only 10% keep them.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that doing two things makes it far easier not just to make, but also to keep, a new year’s resolution: make them (1) modest and (2) specific. When we overreach – “I’m going to run a marathon!” (when you’ve never jogged more than 2 miles) – or set overly general goals that can’t really be measured – “I’m going to be a better person” – we’re more likely to grow frustrated and give up … probably by the end of January!

In addition to whatever personal resolutions you may make this year, I’m going to suggest two “spiritual resolutions” that are modest, specific, and that I hope will root you in a deeper sense of God’s grace during the months of 2018 and beyond.

(1) Start and end each day with a single, simple prayer of gratitude: “As I wake, dear Lord, I am grateful for _____.” (A new day, the people who love me, a good friend, a roof over your head – the choice is yours!) Similarly, at night: “As I rest, dear Lord, I am grateful for ______.” (What got accomplished this day, some unexpected moment of grace, a laugh with a friend, a warm bed – again, use your imagination.) Beginning and ending our days in gratitude heightens our awareness of the many, many ways in which God blesses us every single day. Given that the culture around us often stresses what we lack or seeks to create in us a sense of inadequacy, rooting ourselves in gratitude for God’s blessings can create in us a greater sense of peace, courage, and compassion.

(2) In the coming year, invite two different people to a worship service or other event at Mount Olivet. I know that sounds daunting – we tend to be fairly quiet about our faith – but keep in mind that it’s only one invitation every six months! Two steps to making this easier. First, think of one of your favorite Mount Olivet services or events. Second, think of someone you know who you believe would enjoy it also. It’s helpful to remember that inviting someone to church isn’t being pushy or shoving your faith at someone, but rather is simply sharing something you love with someone you care about. Try it and, I promise, it won’t be as hard as it sounds. Moreover, as this gets easier, you’ll feel blessed by introducing friends to something they, too, may come to value.

Will these rather simple, modest, and specific spiritual resolutions change the world? Perhaps not. But that’s okay, because in and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God has already changed the world and thereby freed us to take care of our little corner of it. Moreover, going about life with a greater sense of gratitude and inviting a few more folks to enjoy the fellowship we share at Mount Olivet may make a bigger difference than you’d imagine. (Think, for a moment, of the impact on our choirs, worship services, camp, Sunday school, and outreach ministries if even 1/3 of us invited two people to come to something at Mount Olivet!)

As we enter 2018, know of my gratitude to God for you and all you do with, for, and through this wonderful congregation. I look forward to seeing all that God will accomplish among us in this new year of grace!

Pastor Lose 
David J. Lose, Senior Pastor