According to the secular calendar it is Black Friday. The worship of consumerism is in full swing at the cathedral mall with accompanying liturgies of parking, finding great deals, and standing in long lines waiting to confess to larger credit card debt. Yep, I know that sounds cynical. There is nothing wrong with a crazy good bargain and thinking of gifting others, but, at the same time, we need to acknowledge that the whole shopping experience mirrors religious movements much more than we might want to admit.
The Christian Year, with its annual rhythm centered round the life of Christ, offers an alternative way of keeping time and living life. Today is the last Friday in the Church Calendar. Sunday is a new year, beginning with Advent, and we again journey with Jesus throughout the seasons. Today’s New Testament lesson contains several staccato-like exhortations from the Apostle Paul at the end of his letter. Just as Paul wanted to get some quick instruction before the end, so we need to hear these biblical imperatives at the end of the Christian Year, as well as keeping them in mind in order to avoid the orgy of shopping within this next month.
The compact list of commands is almost overwhelming: admonish the idle; encourage the fainthearted; help the weak; be patient with everyone; do not repay evil for evil; seek to do good to everyone; rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; do not quench the Spirit; don’t despise prophecies (exhortation of other believers); test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.
Rather than having our eyes glaze over wondering how we can hold all these imperatives together in our lives, let’s focus on one. It is better to begin with one command and be diligent with it than it is to walk away and do none of them at all. One suggestion is to list all these exhortations and ask the Spirit to show you which one to work on in this holiday season. Keep in mind that one command in each decision you make and every conversation you have with others in the next several weeks. See if it becomes a habit for you. Observe how it changes your life and those around you, especially at the mall….
Patient God, your steadfast love sticks with me day in and day out. Help me to weave your commands so thoroughly into the fabric of my life that it transforms the way I interact with others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.