Happy New Year Bethlehem!
I’d like to begin by expressing my deep gratitude for all of you, and for the generosity of your Christmas gift this year. I was blown away and am so profoundly blessed to count myself a part of this community. Thank you so much.
If you have been on Facebook, or Twitter, or really any social media platform this week, you have no doubt seen the annual barrage of memes and comics lampooning the practice of New Year’s Resolutions. Pictures of gym owners raking in the dough from all of the new memberships that are being purchased, people saying that they’ve already failed but that 2021 is their year for sure, there are many classics.
If you have chosen to commit yourself to a resolution in this new year, first off let me say congratulations and wish you the best of luck! Change is never easy, but it is possible, so even if you slip up, do not count it all to be forfeit. As a wise person said to me recently, “As long as you are trying, it’s not a failure. True failure would be not trying at all.”
What you may not know, is that Lutheran theology, specifically sacramental theology regarding baptism, might be able to give you some extra motivation – either to help sustain your resolution efforts, or to recommit yourself after falling off the horse. Lutherans believe that you only need to be baptized once; doesn’t matter how old you were, doesn’t matter what denomination it was in, God is the one who makes it “efficacious” – makes it stick – so we are a one and done people when it comes to baptism. That being said, Martin Luther was very much of the opinion that we should remember our baptisms as often as possible. That’s why we have remembrance of baptism liturgies at the start of many worship services. That’s why baptisms are public events done in the presence of the community of faith and not simply in someone’s home. That’s why you see Pastor Laura and myself make the sign of the cross with water from the font before recessing out of the sanctuary.
And Luther believed that even something as commonplace as washing your face in the morning was the perfect opportunity to remember your baptism. To remember that the call to die to our old sinful selves, and be reborn into to the loving grace and new life offered in Jesus wasn’t a one-time event, but rather a daily activity. Each new day marks a new opportunity for us to succeed in ways we failed to yesterday. With every sunrise comes a chance to shed the mantle of our bondage to sin, and instead seek to follow the path that God has laid before us.
So, each morning as you rise, look at yourself in the mirror as you wash your face, and repeat these words to yourself: “I am a beloved child of God. Every day is a chance to live into the change that I know is possible because of my baptism.” Feel free to abbreviate or personalize as you see fit. But trust that you are not in this process of self-improvement alone. Not only are all of us works in progress, and thus by definition all in it together, but you have the comfort and assurance that God is walking alongside you. To pick you up when you fall down, to cheer your next milestone, and to support you through all that you encounter.