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November 26, 2019, 12:00 AM

New Year's Resolutions - Sermon, 11/24/19


Time for a probably little-known fact: in addition to being the Feast of Christ the King, today is also the last Sunday of the church year. The church year follows the same pattern every year: it begins with Advent, followed by Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, the long season after Pentecost, and finally ending today, the Feast of Christ the King.

Next Sunday, then, the church year begins again with the first Sunday of Advent. If next Sunday is the New Year’s Day of the church year, we might consider today New Year’s Eve. When the regular world’s New Year’s Eve arrives, many people spend time thinking about new year’s resolutions. The world’s New Year’s Eve is the perfect time to make resolutions – to resolve to make new changes and new choices and new commitments for the new year about to dawn.

Today, the church’s New Year’s Eve, today is the perfect time to make new spiritual changes and new choices and new commitments for the new church year about to dawn. Instead of making the annual resolutions to exercise more or save more money, the dawning of the new church year calls to mind different commitments. Perhaps a spiritual new year’s resolution might be to pray more or to worship regularly.

Now, I’m not trying to put down praying or worshiping. After all, praying and worshiping are two of the behaviors that begin to bind us as a church community. But praying and worshiping are not the only marks of a faithful Christian life. A faithful Christian life is also marked by being true to the Baptismal Covenant.

At the 10:00 Eucharist / In just a few minutes, we will be baptizing two new siblings into the family of God. In the Episcopal Church, baptism is more than just the dripping of water on an individual person’s forehead. Baptism, in our tradition, is a community event. It is a gathering of this little part of the family of God.

In the Episcopal Church, baptism is more than just a cross traced on a person’s forehead. Baptism, in our tradition, is an opportunity for the congregation to remember its own Christian commitments.

In the Episcopal Church, baptism is more than the opportunity to hand out a candle. Baptism, in our tradition, is an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant.

The Baptismal Covenant is a somewhat unique part of the baptismal celebration in the Episcopal Church. This covenant is a reminder that baptism not only proclaims what we believe, but that baptism commits us to living a new way. Once baptized, we are called to a new way of life and a new way of living.

Called into relationship with Jesus through our baptisms, the baptismal covenant further calls us to a new way of relating to the world around us. The baptismal covenant asks us questions about what we believe about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. But after the questions about our creed, our beliefs, the baptismal covenant also asks us to commit to a new way of living.

You’re welcome to follow along with the five questions in the Book of Common Prayer. They appear on pages 304 and 305 in case you want to know what you’re getting yourself into.

The first question asked in the baptismal covenant is, “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?” This question reminds us of the importance of living into our Christian faith as a community. We commit as individuals to living our lives of faith as a Christian community.

The next question asked in the baptismal covenant is, “Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?” This question reminds us that we are basically sinful people. It does not ask what we will do IF we sin, but rather WHEN we sin. The same question reminds us that repentance and forgiveness are possible by turning to Jesus.

The next question in the baptismal covenant asks, “Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?” This is the dreaded “evangelism” question, reminding us of our Christian commitment to share our faith with the world, whether by word – what we speak – or example – what we do.

Moving right along to the fourth question that asks, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” This question reminds us of our commitment to Jesus’ new commandment to love, to love recklessly, to love others in service to Jesus.

It’s time for the fifth and final question, which asks, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” This question reminds us of our commitment to not only our faith in Jesus, but also our commitment to living out our faith “in real life” – in the lives we live outside these walls, in the lives we live for the other 6 days and 23 hours each week when we’re not in church.

Feeling overwhelmed yet by these questions? The good news is that we don’t have to make these commitments on our own. The answer to the five questions is not, “Yes,” or “Sure,” or even “I’ll try my best.” No; we answer these questions with the full understanding that we can’t live into these commitments on our own. We answer these questions by saying, “I will, with God’s help.” “Asi lo hare, con el auxilio de Dios.” “Yes, we will,” we reply, but always with the recognition that we can only live into these commitments with God’s help.

As we hear these five questions (and prepare to answer them ourselves), I am once again reminded that today is the church’s New Year’s Eve. Yes, let us make resolutions to pray more regularly and to worship more regularly as the new church year dawns. But let us also make resolutions to live as faithfully as possible, always knowing and trusting and believing that we can only do that as a community and only with God’s help. Amen.


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