In the month in between my first call and my current call, I spent some time reflecting on what I’d learned, what I wanted to bring with me, what I wanted to do differently. And once again, I realized that self-care needed to be more of a priority…that I could only care for a congregation if I was also caring for myself.

And as fate (or the Spirit) would have it, a Facebook ad popped up on my newsfeed, advertising a gym a mile away from our new house that was offering 12 week transformation sessions–12 intentional weeks of strength training multiple times per week, along with one-on-one nutrition coaching, meal planning, and bi-weekly appointments to track progress.

I thought, “Wow, that sounds awful and insane.” And then I found myself filling out the application form.

After four weeks of the transformation session, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I’d been eating better, I had more energy, I was getting the hang of each routine. And then I showed up Monday of week five, and my trainer said, “Ok, we’re changing everything up now.”

And I said, “But I just started getting good at this.” And he said, “Yeah, that’s why we’re changing it up.”

He said that our bodies are smart, and that once our muscles become accustomed to working in a certain way, they are able to do so more efficiently with less energy. The more familiar a movement becomes, the less our bodies have to work. He said that by changing fitness routines every four weeks, our bodies continue to work harder, learn new movements, and gain more muscle.

I think Paul knew this on some level.

“Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called” he writes to the church in Ephesus, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Then and now, there is no way to lead a life marked by these traits without regular reflection, growth, and refinement.

Paul assures the Ephesians that Christ has gifted them all through grace so that together they might be the body of Christ and continue to build up the body of Christ. And friends, Christ has gifted each and every one of us as well to be the body of Christ and to build up the body of Christ, to equip the saints for ministry, to seek unity that isn’t uniformity.

But now more than ever, in this time and in this place, realizing these gifts in ourselves and in others means that we are constantly switching our routines and pushing ourselves to learn and to grow and to change.

Now more than ever, in this time and in this place, God is calling the church to lead the life worthy of the calling to which it has been called.

May it be so. Amen.

The Rev. Elizabeth Smith-Bartlett is the Associate Pastor at The Larchmont Avenue Church and chair of HRP’s Committee on Preparation for Ministry. This post is an excerpt from a sermon preached at the 2017 Early Ministry Institute, sponsored by the Synod of the Northeast.



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