“I am like an olive tree, flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).
Many of us take time on December 31 or January 1 to make resolutions and plans for the coming year. For the last several years I have used the time between Christmas and New Years to choose a “word of the year.” I use this word to direct and focus my life in various ways, including my faith journey. I’m not entirely sure of my word for 2022, but I am drawn to the word “flourish.” Webster’s Dictionary defines flourishing as “to grow luxuriantly, to achieve success, to thrive” and it is considered the opposite of “languishing” in the Sanctuary Course I am participating in as part of our Southwood United Church Learning Circles ministry. The more I think and contemplate and pray, the more I am drawn to this word, especially with respect to my spiritual life. As we move into 2022, I would encourage you to join with me and contemplate your spiritual life and especially your role in your church family.
You are not only God’s beloved child, but you are also chosen and holy. Colossians 3:12 reads: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” As always, Scripture can be taken personally, so perhaps your plans and resolutions for 2022 will include some personal action related to this verse. Is there someone you need to forgive? How will you exhibit compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience? What will you do to live in love and harmony?
Plans and resolutions are all good, yet so often they get sidetracked, waylaid, ignored, or forgotten. We wouldn’t make those resolutions and plans if we didn’t want to achieve them, so what can we do to increase the chances that we will succeed? Once again, we can turn to Scripture for advice. Proverbs 16:3 says: “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Commitment is an important part of accomplishing goals and committing to God raises your pledge to a whole new level. As well, you need to let God establish and confirm your plan. Jeremiah 29:11 states: “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ declares God, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” I would encourage you to talk to God in prayer as you make your plans and resolutions for the coming year. Then make a commitment to God and allow God to guide and redirect you.
So, what plans and resolutions can we make to flourish in our spiritual life? A flourishing faith is more than passively attending services once a week. A flourishing faith is one that is focussed, directed, active, and growing. We can plan to more actively participate in worship. Perhaps you will make a commitment to seek out those dates we celebrate Holy Communion and attend those services consistently. Perhaps you will make a special effort to attend the online service on January 2, 2022, which is the Covenanting Service for Jeriel Joseph (JJ) Soriano, our Student Minister. This will involve a declaration of faith and commitment, not just for him, but for our congregation. It is only right and just that we support those who seek to serve God in this special way. Jeremiah 31:14 says: “I will satisfy the priests with abundance, and my people will be filled with my bounty declares the Lord.” Attending this service and making a commitment to actively support JJ is a step towards a more active worship experience.
Baptisms are another way to actively worship. In our denomination, baptism includes promises made by the congregation to support those presented for baptism and provide them with the opportunity to grow in their faith. Perhaps you will make a commitment to seek out and attend these services. Perhaps you will commit to actively support our Sunday School and Nursery in some way.
Another way to experience a flourishing faith, one that is active and growing, is by seeking knowledge regarding your faith. We are called to be Christlike, and even Jesus participated in learning and seeking wisdom and instruction: “After three days they found him in the temple course, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). Our church is planning to offer several Learning Circles in 2022. Perhaps you will sign up for one, seeking to grow in faith by listening and asking questions just as Jesus did so long ago.
A flourishing spiritual life involves challenges as well. One challenge Southwood United is faced with is a lack of active lay leadership. We have a wonderful staff who are doing a superb job of directing almost all our endeavours. Oh, our programs are full of participants, but we need leaders from the congregation, not just participants. Proverbs 15:22 contains this wisdom: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” We have several positions we would like to fill on our Church Council, which is the body that makes decisions on behalf of the congregation. Perhaps you feel a call to be part of those decisions. Perhaps you are uncomfortable in a leadership role but believe you should be more actively involved. You can join a committee and provide feedback and ideas. We also have a substantial debt we wish to reduce. Perhaps you have fundraising ideas and could serve in a financial capacity? If you enjoy meeting people (and not everybody does), you are being called to be a Church Ambassador. If you are a bargain hunter and enjoy seeking out deals, there are always things we need and could use help finding. We are all provided with gifts, we are all chosen to do SOMETHING for God’s own purpose.
Ephesians 1:11 states: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Will you seek that out? More specifically, what will you do THIS year to accomplish what God has planned for you? I encourage you to pray, seek God’s guidance and then commit to do it. My hope and prayer is that by doing this your faith with flourish—growing like an olive tree and providing sweet fruit for all you serve.