Reflecting my penchant for all things edible, I have several food magazine subscriptions and, just like Anglican church newsletters and newspapers, these magazines are seasonal or, to use a church word, liturgical. The highlights of the liturgical food calendar include Easter, Mother’s Day, summer barbecue days, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Also prominent, however, is the January “hold-back” issue; that is, hold back on everything, but particularly on food and money. The message is indisputable: retreat from the indulgences of the previous season. One element of this restraint, however, is marketed as a “taking-on” rather than a “holding-back.” This, of course, is the introduction into our lives (or re-introduction, as the case may be) of physical exercise. In amongst all the articles on light and healthy cooking are the pictures of rather lithe and slender women showing me how to twist my body into various contortions, apparently intended to make me feel better about myself and to add years onto my life.
When I was younger, I participated in aerobic classes at the local community centre. It didn’t take me long to figure out that these classes were quite similar to the church services I presided over on a Sunday morning. While one is fitness for the body and the other is fitness for the soul, both instill similar responses and encourage similar results. Not surprisingly, however, our society is much more inclined to focus on physical rather than spiritual fitness. While we can see our bodies deteriorate before us, our souls remain a hidden mystery, one that, too often, we seem to ignore. If the January message in food magazines encourages physical fitness, then the church message at this time of the year might also encourage fitness: spiritual fitness. Souls, like bodies, need nourishment.
It is a fact that physical fitness flourishes through routine and consistency. It doesn’t take long before a few days of languishing turns into a week, and a week quickly turns into several weeks. Before we know it, all our resolutions have gone out the window and we are no longer taking care of our bodies. Church worship is much the same, also flourishing through routine and consistency. Perhaps this is the time of year to give thoughtful consideration to the care and feeding of our souls, and regular church worship might be a good place to start.