Merry Christmas! And yes, it’s still Christmas until January 6th. So, Merry Christmas! Oh, and let me add a hearty Happy New Year. Lee Harder, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bulverde, Texas wishing you greetings for a new year.
Before I launch into our first Blog of 2019, let me invite you to join us this January 6th, Epiphany Sunday, as we return to our regular schedule of worship celebrations at 8:30 AM (traditional) in our sanctuary and 10:45 AM (contemporary) in our Christian Faith Center. In between these celebrations, we have refreshments of coffee, lemonade and sweet rolls along with Christian education opportunities for ALL ages. We would very much like you to join us.
With New Year’s Day only hours away (from the time of writing this blog) I suspect one or two of us have made some New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know what it is about starting a new year, but we have a desire to better ourselves. So, we make conscious decisions to improve our lot in life.
1) We’ll eat better.
2) We’ll exercise more.
3) We’ll save more.
4) We’ll spend more time as a family.
5) We’ll go to church more.
(Naturally this last one is a favorite for pastor to hear.)
I personally am falling into point number two. I am getting a piece of exercise equipment (another one) — a walking treadmill — that will support my weight. As noted, I have other pieces of equipment, but they rest in rooms where I must go off by myself to exercise offering no real incentive and no social contact. With this walking treadmill, I’ve talked Karen (no small feat requiring firm commitment and agreements of consequences with failure to use by myself) into having it set up in the family room near the kitchen. I can walk and watch TV or work in the kitchen at the same time with our girls (our two Goldens) and Karen close at hand. My hope is that this will inspire me (along with my promises to Karen) to begin and maintain some kind of exercise regiment. Besides, my cardiologist has done such a great job in fixing my heart, it would be a shame not to try to keep his handiwork in good shape. So, I’ll try my best.
It’s funny, though, how many of us make New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, only to fail to keep them. I’ve made them before and broken them. You, too? What makes it so hard, what really challenges us, is the ability to break bad habits. We are reluctant to do so.
The experts say if a person does something 21 times in succession, it will become a habit. But, 21 times? How come the bad habits come so easily? I mean, once or twice and we have it nailed.
I can’t speak to the other resolutions, but I can speak to the one about church or more precisely a better relationship with God.
Having a relationship with God in His church is a good thing. We know that. One hour on Sunday morning as a minimum, isn’t really too great a demand. Few would deny that. However, as many declare, having a relationship with God doesn’t require going to church. A person can pray and believe without church attendance, which is true. That’s not why we make church worship part of a healthy regiment. (Yes, we need to be spiritually healthy, too.) Worshiping with other believers enriches us in ways that worshiping alone cannot.
Yes, we can read and seek to interpret God’s Word from Scripture as we apply it to our lives, but that’s not the same as a sermon (even a mediocre one) that tries to expand our understanding of a text with others.
Yes, we will be surrounded by sinners, and probably a few hypocrites too (like ourselves) who are also seeking a healthy spiritual lifestyle. We can learn from and be enriched by fellow believers which is impossible in seclusion on our own.
Yes, there is a power that is evident when people engage in worship of God as a community together as opposed to being alone with God. It isn’t tangible, but it is real and rewarding.
My suggestion and recommendation for this New Year is that if [IF, mind you] you make a New Year’s resolution, you try to live by it a dozen times. 21 seems an impossible goal. For 12 days, I will walk at least 10 minutes, twice a day. Maybe, I can work up to 15 minutes. One step at a time.
If you want to start worshiping as a family and develop or enhance or begin a relationship with God in the church setting, then pick a certain Sunday and go. Don’t let any other activity, event or excuse prevent you. If after going, you weren’t turned away, publicly embarrassed or totally uncomfortable, pick another Sunday and go again. As a pastor, a sinner, a believer and a preacher — I will try to do my part and make worship as interesting and rewarding as possible. We need you there. You need you there!
It’s a resolution worth keeping, but then all the good ones really are, if only we would. Maybe, I’ll see you at church this weekend.
And those are my thoughts.
Pastor Lee R. Harder