From the Reverend’s Desk
January. The month when our resolutions for the new year are declared. Hopes, dreams, and desires are made known. Where did the idea of new year resolutions come from anyway?
Well, it turns out that just about every religion and ancient culture has some form of New Year’s resolutions. That’s why we call it January – because at the dawn of each Gregorian year the ancient Romans made promises of selfimprovement to Janus, their god of beginnings and passages. That practice probably came from the even more ancient Babylonians, who had to promise to their gods at the beginning of each year that they would pay their debts and return things they’d borrowed.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, started their watchnight services in 1740, not only to offer an alternative to the typical drunken revelry on New Year’s Eve but to sing hymns, read from scripture and resolve to lead a more spiritual life in the year ahead. Wesley called these watchnight observances Covenant Renewal Services.
So, this year, in the spirit of various traditions, I want to propose a set of spiritual resolutions we might all want to think about adopting and putting into practice. We’ll agree in advance to avoid the standard New Year’s resolutions — you know the ones – lose weight, travel more, have less stress, spend more time with the family, etc. Instead, here’s a suggestion for a spiritual set of resolutions we could all stand to keep, me included:
- I resolve to start and end each waking day with a prayer of gratitude for my life.
- I resolve to not just tell, but to actively show love to my entire family — the human family.
- I resolve to work to rid myself of my prejudices – everyone has some, and we all would be better off without them.
- I resolve to practice a period of meditation every day – it doesn’t have to be long or involved, but it has to be a consistent practice of being alone to reflect on my thoughts and feelings.
- I resolve to commit to a goal of service to others, making at least one human life better next year than it was this year.
- I resolve to extend myself beyond my normal social and cultural groups this year – to reach out across the racial, class and age barriers our society imposes on us and befriend someone who isn’t exactly like me.
- I resolve to do something significant this year toward the goal of peace in the world, even if it is just a small volunteer commitment in my own community or a new attitude about dealing with conflicts in a peaceful way.
- I resolve to actively show more kindness, not just to the people around me, but to animals, too.
- And I resolve to see the world as a place where all of my resolutions can make others – and myself – a happier, more radiant and more spiritually-fulfilled person.
I pray that you have a spirit-filled year deciding to practice and live out these spiritual resolutions in 2019.