Thursday, January 16, 2014

God's New Year Resolution

Every year, two things happen in January.

First of all, many people make New Year resolutions where they promise to make themselves better in some way this year.  "I will exercise more." "I will eat healthier." "I will laugh more... spend more time with my kids... quit smoking..." And so on. I generally do not make resolutions (the list of needed improvements is longer than can be tackled in one year), but I do usually at least think about what I'd like to see improved.

The second thing that happens every January, though largely ignored by everyone except church nerds like me, is Baptism of Our Lord Sunday. Baptism of Our Lord Sunday is always the Sunday after Epiphany on January 6 and is meant to remember the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan. It can also be a day to remember and celebrate the baptisms of all believers and I usually like to have a celebration of baptism be part of worship on that day.

What has never occurred to me until this year is how these two things can be linked. Martin Luther talked about baptism as a daily renewal, a constant source of God working in us to make us more holy. Daily we are justified (meaning "put in line with God") by our baptism. To Luther, baptism isn't a one time event, but a way of living, a daily practice and reminder of God's work in us to make us who we are meant to be.

In other words, baptism is a daily New Year resolution. But it's not a resolution we make on our own; it's one that God has made to us and God partners with us to shape us into the best version of ourselves. It's also one that doesn't get abandoned after a month or two because God's promise to us doesn't disappear.

And here's the even deeper connection between these two things: most all the things we resolve to do for New Year's can be ways of honoring and serving God. Taking care of our bodies and making them healthy is caring for the dwelling place of God because "you are God's temple and God's spirit dwells in you" (1 Cor. 3:16). Have a healthy body also makes us better able to help and work for others. Spending more time with family and friends builds the loving relationships God calls for us to have. Getting our finances in order removes a distraction (and an idol?) and can free us to be more generous with our resources.

Being baptized into Christ means that God is constantly resolving to make us more healthy, whole people, both spiritually and physically, internally and externally. We are called to live baptized, to constantly be renewed and improved by the Spirit, not just in the New Year, but every year, every week, every day.

“I don’t want to leave unchanged.” -Shaun Groves, “After the Music Fades”

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