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Easter Resolutions: Under New Management

Today, an introduction to a several-part series on "Easter Resolutions."

I didn't make up the term - a quick Google search shows over 2,000 uses of it - but I like the idea of "Easter Resolutions."

It seems that the most familiar or typical time to make resolutions is January 1st.

And making New Year's Resolutions is understandable, because the start of a calendar year symbolizes an opportunity for a new start, and a fresh beginning.

But I'll admit that I've never really gotten on board with New Year's Resolutions. The change from December 31 to January 1 just seems a little...what...arbitrary? -- and other than the fact that the number of the year we happen to be in has changed, there's really no underlying reason to make life changes.

So New Year's Resolutions, at least for me, lack motivation...they lack a driving force behind the changes I want to make.

The second most familiar or typical time to make resolutions is (at least for Christians who are from liturgical-year churches) the season of Lent.

And at least Lenten Resolutions have a theological rationale, or reason behind them: we fast, give, and pray with extra attention for the forty-plus days of Lent in order to identify with the fasting, self-giving, and praying that Jesus did in the wilderness for forty days, and to prepare ourselves for Easter.

But I've long had a couple problems with Lenten Resolutions.

First of all, if our Lenten Resolutions are in keeping with Jesus' instructions on how to fast, pray, and give, then we would do them in secret: not even our spouse, immediate family, or close work colleagues would have any clue we were doing them.

(Except, we'd hope, that they would notice us, over the course of Lent, becoming better - less selfish, less gossipy, less whiny and more loving - people on a day-to-day basis, and start wondering what the heck was up...)

But does that ever really happen?

That kind of anonymity and discipline is difficult for most people, and so Lenten resolutions inadvertently end up, I've found, making us do exactly what Jesus told us NOT to do, which is to draw attention to ourselves and our piety.

A second problem I've had with Lenten Resolutions is that they tend to focus on what are (for most people) petty vices, instead of what are (for most people) the more serious ones.

Here's what I mean by that, by way of C.S. Lewis:

In  Mere Christianity, Lewis writes a chapter on sexual morality where he quite clearly, forcefully, and unapologetically spells out the traditional Christian understanding of sex: "Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence."

But here's part of how he ends that chapter:

The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, of hatred.

That's my problem with so many Lenten Resolutions:

They tend to focus on ourselves and our sins of the flesh, rather than on God and our sins of the heart.

I am SO guilty of this.

For years, just before every Lent, I would pray about what to "give up" for Lent.

Some years it'd be sweets, and out would go the ice cream. Other years it'd be alcohol, and so out would go the Miller Lite, red wine, and single malt scotch. Other years it'd be cigars. (I've never smoked cigarettes, but yeah, I like an occasional cigar.) Many years - depending on what I seemed to be "inordinately attached to" - I'd give up two or all three of these things.

But did all those Lents of self-denial make me a better Christian?

(Let's define "better Christian" here the way Jesus pretty much defined it - and all of Scripture, for that matter - an increased capacity to "love God with all of one's heart, mind, soul and spirit and to love one's neighbor as one's self.")

(Or let's define "better Christian" by looking for evidence of what Paul called "the fruit of the spirit" - evidence of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; evidence of a growing "affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity, a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.")

Which brings me to Easter Resolutions.

Easter also symbolizes (not just symbolizes...IS) a new start, a fresh beginning.

But unlike New Year's, Easter has a motivation, a driving force behind the changes we want to make: the new life God gives us.

And unlike Lent, the driving focus of an Easter Resolution would not be self-denial, but self-realization: realizing, becoming, and blossoming, in our everyday life, into the new creature, the new creation, the new management we're under, the new man/woman we are.

It seems that living into that Life would be a lot easier, and more effective, than all our resolutions to "live a better life," combined.

That's why I'm excited to explore Easter Resolutions during our new Adult Forum "Under New Management" at The Falls Church Episcopal beginning this Sunday, and further, here in these posts.


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