A New Resolution
Recently, I found this website: www.43things.com. It's a strange kind of site where you list things (up to 43) that you want to accomplish in life. It also lists how many people on the site are trying to accomplish the same task. I have 24 things listed so far. For some of my goals there are literally thousands of people with the same goal in mind, but for most of them there is only one---me. Every once in a while I will add something new, or revise one of the things, but I have not visited the site that often in recent weeks. It's kind of daunting, to be honest, and my track record with keeping resolutions is spotty at best. You can check out my 43 Things site if you want to... Just click here.
If you traveled over there out of curiosity and managed to find your way back, perhaps you can commiserate with me a bit on how daunting our resolutions, goals and yet-to-be-fulfilled dreams can be when you place them on a list like the one on 43 Things. I decided to sketch out some of my resolutions this year---most of which are on my 43 Things list as well.
1) Read a book a week (I actually did his in 2006 and it was awesome. One of the few resolutions I have actually kept)
2) Be a better parent
3) Be a better husband
4) Commit myself to finally completing my book and getting it published
5) Become a better preacher
6) Lose weight and get into crazy shape to lower my blood pressure
7) Further develop and pursue a real missional vision for my church
8) Spend more time with my parents
9) Simplify my life
10) Find ways to promote peace and unity within the Church
11) Learn Spanish
12) Travel more
14) Develop a more mature prayer life
15) Keep my resolutions this year...
Every new year I decide to do things differently. I decide that I will become healthier, wiser, more complete as a human being... but I know that I will fail. I know that I will not keep my resolutions---or at least won't keep most of them. In fact, I am sort of counting on failure. It's easier to make grand promises when I know that I have no real intention of keeping them.
The lectionary texts this past Sunday were hard to put together at first. There was Jeremiah 31 with all of its promises of hope, restoration, and the abundance of barley and other assorted grains... There was language of celebration---of return to greatness. There was a promise from God that despite all of the bad things that had happened to God's people it was going to be all right---every little thing was going to be all-right. Then there was John 1 with its sort of resigned, accusatory-yet-somehow beautiful way of saying, "Christ came, and none of you really got that." I love John's Gospel. So mysterious and divisive, compelling and challenging all at once.
It was when I started thinking of the Jeremiah text in context that it really started to make sense to me why these two texts might both form and inform the meaning we are supposed to take from them. The prophet Jeremiah was speaking to a group of people who were assuredly in exile, but one day would be given the chance to return to their homeland and do things differently. They were being given the chance to start over. And some of the people who were given this second chance took advantage of it, and went back to the ruined city of Jerusalem to rebuild it. Some decided to stay in exile. The thought of stepping out into the unknown was more frightening than staying where they were---even though where they were was a place of slavery and servitude and "other-ness."
In John's Gospel we hear the news that all of Creation has been given a second chance, an opportunity to do things differently and be delivered from the slavery of sin and death. Yet, despite this opportunity, according to John, there are those who prefer the known to the unknown---slavery over freedom.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we need to begin living as forgiven people, people who have been redeemed, given a new chance to start again. There's no middle ground here, no place to half-step. We either resolve that we are going to be followers of Christ, despite the cost, or we remain where we are, content with business as usual. So many people who all themselves Christians have lost their ability to live into the hope of their redemption. We have not been redeemed to live lives less ordinary. We have not been redeemed so that we can become a mega church. We have not been redeemed so that we can build a better investment portfolio. We have not been redeemed so that we could market Christianity like we would a new car, or a Britney Spears CD. We have been redeemed to live beyond ourselves, to pour ourselves out for the kingdom of God, to become less so Christ can become more, to turn the other cheek, to walk the extra mile, to take up our cross and follow even if it is to our own destruction.
As long as we continue to leave ourselves a way out, a way to break our resolutions before we even make them... We will continue to struggle to truly become the Church that God intends for us to become. By contrast, we need to pursue our life in Christ with wild abandon, unafraid where it might take us, or what we might find when we get there.