December 31, 2017
Union University Church
Reverend Laurie DeMott
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS “From the desert monastics” by Daniel B. Clendenin
Daniel Clendenin is a professor of theology who earned his Ph.D. from Drew University, taught at William Tyndale College in Michigan, and then at Moscow State University for four years. Though raised an evangelical, his time in Russia led him to in-depth explorations of Christianity’s orthodox traditions. He spent several years reading the fourth century writings of monastic hermits who fled the growing corruption of church at that time to seek Christ in the solitude of the Egyptian desert. The monks of that time were thoughtful, introspective, and often bluntly honest about life and faith, and Clendenin said that he found their thoughts very informative to his own faith experience. Protestant Christians have often neglected the ancient writers, considering them irrelevant to a more biblically based faith but Clendenin says he shares the attitude of the great English writer G.K. Chesterson who said, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. [Tradition] is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death.”
During the worship service, I read the twelve resolutions from Clendenin’s blog which you can read for yourself here: https://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20081229JJ.shtml
We’ve heard twelve spiritual resolutions based on ancient monastic writings and one thing that we’ve learned is that though technology, culture, and even the church has changed a great deal over two thousand years, the human spirit has not. We could hear our own faith struggles in the words of those men and women of so long ago and I’m sure that in those resolutions, you heard some resolutions that particularly rang true for you. Every year, it is a tradition to make resolutions and every year it is almost as traditional to break those resolutions before the calendar has advanced very far which may make us wonder why we even bother, but as St. John of Karpathos said, “If you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times…rise up again each time.” While it is true that we may sometimes be unsuccessful in keeping our resolutions, it is an unarguable fact that we will certainly not keep them if we never make them in the first place!
In the spirit of the new year, then I asked the congregation to send me your spiritual resolutions for 2018 and many of you responded. I would like to end our service by reading those resolutions to you and then we will join together in prayer.
- To be more aware and grateful for the miracles that happen every day.
- To quiet my mind and open my heart to trust and use the gifts and blessings that God has prepared for me.
- to work with our church to help a refugee family emigrating to be with other family members wherever they may be.
- to read the Bible again
- Try to find some sign of hope for a better world each day.
- Do something each day (no matter how small) to make the world a better place.
- Same one I’ve made for 3 years…..it is a goal I’m still trying to master: Be less judgmental.
- To add to the beauty of the world instead of contributing to the ugliness
- To pray more thoughtfully and attentively
- To find the courage to act on behalf of those who are treated unjustly in our society
- To listen more attentively for God instead of just bulldozing through a situation
- To be more patient with others … and with myself
.Let us pray: Lord, accept these resolutions we make as a sign of our recognition of the important place you hold in our lives and hearts. Whatever the new year brings, we pray that we will meet its challenges and joys with you firmly in our hearts, trusting in your guidance, and grateful always for your loving presence with us. Amen.