Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday's Essay - We Resolve

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.

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Related imageNow that Christmas is over and we’re standing on the threshold of a new year, it’s about time to make some resolutions. Of course, most of these promises involve personal things we’d like to change, you know, like eating habits or even church attendance. They reflect tangible alterations that may come at the end of a year of nagging, and I’m thinking about losing weight or stopping smoking. They may even involve the mind or the spirit, maybe reading that book that’s been sitting on the shelf for a couple of years or that Bible we said we’d read last year. Now, in my own life, these are the kind of things I generally resolve to do before the next December 31st. Of course, if you’re anything like me, I never seem to get past the promise phrase. I mean, even when my motivation is good and my intentions sound, it doesn’t take long for me to fall off the wagon, and eat that last pork chop even though I’m not really hungry and stop weighing myself so that I never really know whether I’m losing or not and hide the book because I feel judged every time I see its jacket. Of course, that may be just me. The rest of humanity may have an astounding success rate. But to tell the truth, I rather doubt it. As a matter of fact, we might all be more successful with our new year resolutions it we decided to just cut out the baloney and just resolve to fail. Now that’s a resolution I can keep.

But this year, I think there’s another possibility we might want to try. But instead of it being something relatively specific and maybe superficial, we can make a resolution that can and will shape what we do and how we live for at least the next twelve month. And it’s something that’s profoundly biblical, even spiritual, and that will, I guarantee, make an enormous difference in the lives of others. And here it is: we can resolve to love one another. That’s it, simply to love one another.

But before we just mouth the words, knowing that what it actually means and how we can actually do it can be incredibly vague, I think it would be an excellent idea to ground this love business in something that’s a little more concrete and measurable than just an emotion or a feeling. And I’ll tell you, I don’t think there’s a better place to look for what I’m talking about than the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. You see, although these verses have become part and parcel of countless marriage services, given the context for the chapter, I think Paul was writing about more than the relationship between husband and wife. I mean, this is part of what Paul wrote:
Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting.
Image result for love your neighbor
Now, I think this is powerful stuff. But more than that, I think it can be done. You see, I think what he wrote points to some things we’re able to exorcize from our character. For example, we can sure work on jealousy issues and an inflated ego and a lack of common courtesy. And we can definitely stop resenting the success of those around us and flying off the handle and totting up the wrongs done by others just so that we have something really juicy to tell our friends. These are things I believe most of us could reduce. While, at the same time, we can incorporate a little more kindness and patience into our relationships, even those that may frustrate the puddin out of us. And we can actually seek and celebrate the truth, you know, real honesty, rather than to disregard it because it might get in the way of some rumor or innuendo. And as we consider what ties us to our spouses and children, friends and neighbors, even members of our community and congregation, we can decide that we’re going to be supportive, even though we don’t think they deserve it. And we can be loyal, even though that may mean sacrificing some of ourselves for a friend. And we can be hopeful, believing that God is the one in control. And we can be trusting, confident that regardless of what happens, God’s going to lead us to the other side. Now, according to Paul, this is what love is all about. And I believe it’s something that we’re capable of doing.

Of course, even if we resolve to love one another, we can still moderate our eat and increase our church attendance. We can pass on both the whipped cream and the Winstons. And we can sure take that book down, dust it off and start to read. You see, none of these things are contrary to love. But, if the kind of love Paul described is what we decide to do, then the impact on ourselves and on others may be far greater than all that other stuff we’ll probably stop doing soon after the first.

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