Voice of the clergy – To follow Christ, you have to choose…

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By The Very Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Rev. Daniel P. RichardsLife lessons usually come with sweat and blood and leave scars behind. Or you can read a lot of books. I prefer the books, but I have to say that I don’t actually get the lesson into my bones until I’ve lost a little skin. Right now, it is the knowledge of just how much maintenance the good in life requires. Our house is fairly new to us, but I have a list of to-do items that is becoming scroll length, in addition to the normal four hundred things to do daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. Today it is drywall and door handles.

Let us not discuss the various things that are required by marriage, children, hobbies, job, vocation, church,  and friendships. Everything takes maintenance, at least everything good. I chose fountain pens over throw-always twenty years ago, and my fingertips are colored with ink a couple of days a week. It is a choice that I made and that I keep making.

If you are going to follow Christ, you have to choose, not once, but a million times. You have to keep choosing. This is one of those theological paradoxes: through Christ you are saved once, but you work out your salvation over the days, weeks, months, and years.

Does that feel relaxing? Does that feel like Jesus’ light yoke or easy burden? Sometimes not. It is easier to go down the big road than to take the narrow path, but I have found that there is a kind of joy on the narrow way that the broad path just does not offer. It is the joy of living as a human being in the household of God.

We do not do the work because God will love us when our chores are done. We work because the Father’s Spirit is transforming us into sons and daughters, citizens of the Kingdom, and sons and daughters get chores because they belong to a household. Citizens work for love of the land. We are part of something beautiful and good, and we are becoming beautiful and good as we grow in virtue.

Virtue takes work. Vice and decay come with time. As a pastor and priest I am on the side of virtue, but it still doesn’t come easy.

I would rather not do the work today. The sun is calling and my running shoes are by the door, and I know I am a child of God. But, I want a home I can live in with my wife and children cared for and at peace, a church that is welcoming, faithful, and holy, and friendships that are joyful. So for today it is drywall patch and new door handles and fasting and prayer and Scripture. Today it is work.   It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming.

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