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The word is... exercise

February 13, 2018

...well said

Ancient church mothers and fathers often greeted one another with the phrase, “Give me a word.” This greeting led to the sharing of insights and wisdom. Today we continue this tradition with this monthly column.

EXERCISE

By Rev. Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg

I think it’s a cruel twist of linguistic fate that the word for this month is “exercise.” Because by February, most New Year’s resolutions are shot and the gym parking lot is not quite so crowded.

However, February seems like a good month to be reminded that so much of what we think of as nouns in the Christian faith are verbs as we practice them.

Love, for example, is a noun and a verb. But in the church, it’s surely a verb first, an action word. And if it is
a verb, we can practice it. We can exercise it. We can build that muscle, with practice and dedication. We can get better at it.

I’ve often thought I’d change the sign outside my church to “Come to church and we’ll make you a better lover,” but I think my SPRC wouldn’t get my sense of humor.

Service comes from “serve,” a verb. We can get better at serving, through practice and prayer and dedication. Pray, heal, forgive, grow — all “action words” to a church whose mission is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ” and through them, “transform the world.” So much action, so many verbs.

I wonder if we could take a few nouns and make them into verbs, just for fun. Like a nominalization in reverse. For instance, we treat “faith” like a porcelain heirloom, like the good china we never use. What if faith were an action word? Something to be exercised and used.

What if we treated spiritual disciplines like the “exercises” they are? After all, the more we pray, the better we get at prayer. The more we search the Scriptures, the more we make our heart their home. The more we take the Lord’s Supper, the hungrier we get for it.

We can exercise all these muscles this month, as we start Lent on Valentine’s Day this year. The heart is a muscle too, you know.

Time to hit the spiritual gym and get serious about building a little muscle for Jesus. We have important things to do, so we need to be in shape. Work out your salvation. Put your faith to work. Exercise.

By Rev. Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill

One of my favorite rituals is the annual “back-to- the-gym” routine. After the holidays, everybody decides that they are going to get back into shape. People spend money on all the new accoutrement, dust off that old gym membership and they hit the gym to get their exercise in and get back into shape. For a little while the gym is full, parking is sparse, and you have to wait on your preferred machine because everyone is ready to exercise.

Then, a strange thing happens, after two weeks or so, all the new people disappear and you are just left with the regulars who were exercising before the beginning of the year.

People have theorized that this happens because people only hold up their New Year’s resolutions for so long before they go back to normal. I have a different theory: I think it happens because exercise is hard.

Exercise requires that you do something that you would not normally do, for an extended duration of time, in order to make your muscles work until they are tired. Then, after that, you wind up sore and wondering why you did this in the first place. If you do that for a couple weeks and don’t see any results, it only makes sense that you would stop doing it because it is simply easier to sleep in and not exercise.

The problem is, rarely in life do good things come easily. To get what you want, you will have to do things that you have never done, that are uncomfortable to do, and do them long enough to see results. This process doesn’t only apply to physical exercise; it also applies to the spiritual undertaking of exercising your faith.

My friends, in order to have a life that is pleasing to God and truly enjoyable by you, you have to exercise your faith. You have to believe hard even when you don’t feel like it. You have to take steps forward in faith even when it doesn’t seem like it is working.

Just like with physical exercise, when you exercise your faith, you will become tired, you will become sore but if you hang in there you will see the results.

So keep that New Years’ resolution and take some time every day to exercise ... your faith.

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