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A Letter from the General Minister to Pittsburgh Presbytery

We Resolve
January 11, 2018

If pundits are right, many of us will already have failed at keeping our New Year’s resolutions, less than two weeks into the new year. And that’s just the slice of us who actually make such resolutions; more than a few have simply given up making New Year’s resolutions because we have failed at them so miserably in the past. Human resolve is so very fickle, weak, unreliable.

Yet what we resolve to do matters. This week we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord, which reminds us that, in this critically important event in Jesus’ life, human resolve and divine agency converge. Is baptism a human offering to God or God’s action to make a claim on us? The answer is Yes. Both come together as Jesus resolves to receive John’s baptism despite John’s protests, and God’s claim on Jesus resounds from heaven, “You are my son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) Immediately, Mark reports, the Spirit then drives Jesus out into the wilderness of temptation (divine action), where Jesus fasts and prays (human resolve) in preparation for facing his temptations.

What do you hope to accomplish in 2018? Where will you put your shoulder to the wheel? Countless individuals accept the challenge to draw up personal or vocational goals for the new year, but many of their congregations are hard pressed to name any goals they have established beyond economic survival and maintaining membership. Churches that are especially ambitious may set a goal for membership growth, but little more.

Even one goal for the new year can make a real difference. In no order of importance, following are some possibilities that should be doable for any congregation, if only we muster the requisite resolve. These do not guarantee that the church will grow, but they put us in a position for God to work among us and through us something significant that we would otherwise miss.

Who knows what God may have in store for us in 2018? We have no control of that. But what we can do is to be more attentive to our neighborhood and more engaged with sister congregations in worship and mission, putting us in a better position to be part of what God is doing in the new year. What is your congregation’s New Year’s resolution?

Your partner in mission,

The Rev. Dr. Sheldon W. Sorge, General Minister

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