October 3, 2021 Psalm 118:19-29, Hebrews 3:7-13, 13:7-9, Matthew 6:25-34
Faith for every day
What is important in life? I know this is a question most of us ask, but I am not sure we give ourselves enough time to answer this profound question. Bronnie Ware is an Australian author and nurse who worked as a caregiver for the dying. In her book, “The Regret of the Dying” she lists 5 regrets:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I concur that I have never heard anyone who at the end of her life said: “I wish I had worked more”. There is one more wish that I’ve heard in my work with people at the end of their life: “I wish I had travelled more and see more of the world”. The world is indeed a beautiful place. The diversity of nature, culture, art, and people are indeed something to behold!
The question though is why is it that most people know what is important in life, they know about the regrets that many people have when they look back at their lives, and yet, they don’t embrace what is important every day. They don’t always seize the day or the moment.
Why don’t people live their lives and do what is necessary in order to have fewer regrets at the end? One reason perhaps is that we become too busy, so distracted that we don’t see, or notice what is important every day. We don’t realize, we don’t know, we don’t understand, the importance of what we do or say every day. We move from moment to moment with our eyes metaphorically shut!
In Hebrew 13:2 the author says: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” They have done something good without knowing it. And sometimes we miss opportunities without knowing it as well.
In Matthew 25 the Son of Man invites people into His kingdom. He divides them into 2 groups: One group is called blessed and the other accursed. And as the narrative continues we see the difference between the two groups. One group, when the Son of Man was hungry, they gave him food, when he was thirsty they gave him something to drink, when he was naked they clothed him. They then ask: “Lord, when was it? When did we do this?” The interesting fact is that they did not know when they did this – but they did. They used opportunities to do good. It was simply part of who they are and what they do! This is why the Lord answers: “When you did it to one of the least of these you did it to me”.
Another example is the one about the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16 the rich man was dressed in royal colors and fine linen. He feasted sumptuously every day! At the gate of the city was a poor man named Lazarus. The rich man probably walked past Lazarus every day, not noticing him. It was not that the rich man was intentionally a bad person. It was just that he did not make use of the opportunity that God presented to him every day. He did not know that God somehow was with Lazarus.
I suspect that this is how it is with us. Even if and when we want to make the right decisions and have the right priorities, we simply don’t notice them, we don’t see them, or we don’t know, or don’t understand the importance of what we do or say every day. Or for that matter, the importance of what we don’t do, or don’t say every day!
So, what can we do about it?
The book of Hebrews is helpful. You see, the book informs us that every new moment in our lives matters, and they matter every day! There are a few words in the book that are repeated: Now, today, and especially a meaningful Greek word, Kairos. Kairos is an important word. It means an opportune time, a decisive moment, time of decision, a time appointed by God. It is the right moment to decide! And when you think about it carefully, we have to admit that every single day bring many opportune times, many times to make decisions, times appointed by God. Many Kairos moments!
In Hebrews 13:7-9 the author calls on his readers to remember their leaders, those who spoke of God to them. He calls on them to consider the outcome of their way of life, and to imitate their faith. And then he says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow!” Therefor they should not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. They needed to stand firm in their faith, like yesterday, and today, and forever. The same Christ is still their High-priest today and therefore they too should be faithful today!
His citation from Psalm 95 underlines the importance of today! And time and again he urges them: “Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your heart …as on the day of testing in the wilderness.” And then in 3:13 he says: “Exhort one another every day, as long as it is called today…” Today is important because it too shall pass. There will be a time when there will not be a “today”. Today is very important – for it is a Kairos moment – an opportune time! Therefore, we have to seize it. Carpe Diem!
“Today”, as the Kairos moment, is then true for every day, for every new situation, for every moment of our lives! It is then not enough to say, I did my best to be a faithful person yesterday – so I can relax today! Or there was a time when I was very faithful and engaged in churchwork, I even served on consistory, but that was then – not today.
I have heard people telling me how engaged they were in church work in the past. That is good but the question is: Are you using the God-given opportunities of today? Of course, it is good to think back, to have memories of the good work you’ve done – to rejoice and give thanks for opportunities that you used in the past- but if it means that you am not using the opportunities of today, the author of the book is saying: “it is not enough!” for there are more Kairos moments, more todays to make decisions!
The most important question then is not how I did in the past but rather, what can I do today? Am I open to and aware of the opportunities that God provides today? And if I am aware, do I actually use today’s opportunities to practice my faith in God? Do I serve God in everything I do – today? Am I seizing this day?
Now this is a bit disturbing. Why? Because viewed this way, there is no time to relax and to sit back and say, “I’ve done enough!” The book of Hebrews urges us to continue on the journey for we have not yet reached our destination.
Last Sunday we met with the new confirmands and their parents. We reminded them that their confirmation process does not end next Pentecost when they will be confirmed. When they are confirmed their journey as active confessing members is then only starting. Too many young people go through the process and consider that they are finished with church once they are confirmed. The book of Hebrews is clear: “No! Today is what matters. Use it and live as a person of faith!”
Let’s be honest: Our lives are full and busy. There are many things in this world that distract us and that seem like a priority: materialism, work, short term fun, our ideals and values, the way we spend our time. There is a real danger that we may say: God, faith, church, serving others, helping the needy, I will pay attention to these tomorrow or later.
This, the author of Hebrews says, is not a good idea. For we don’t know what tomorrow or later will bring! All we have is today. And God wants us to see the God-given opportunities, and use those opportunities. God wants us to have sensitive eyes to not only see these opportunities, but also to have open and willing hearts to use them by making the right decisions today, and every day! “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Amen.