I think one of the most important words Jesus ever spoke was the word “today.”
Give us today our daily bread.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.
Today salvation has come to this house…
Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Much of our life and culture beckons us back to yesterday or invite us – usually in anxiety – to fast forward to tomorrow. Our wisdom, our choices, our resolve, our faith, and our hope are all diminished if we dwell in yesterday or project what tomorrow may be. Jesus knew that God created us all…for today.
After his death at age 96 this summer, I reread some of Frederick Buechner’s books that have mattered most to me through the years. Among the passages that came back to me was this one, from Whistling in the Dark:
“This is the day which the Lord has made,” says Psalm 118. “Let us rejoice and be glad in it” (v. 24). Or weep and be sad in it for that matter. The point is to see it for what it is, because it will be gone before you know it. If you waste it, it is your life that you’re wasting. If you look the other way, it may be the moment you’ve been waiting for always that you’re missing. All other days have either disappeared into darkness and oblivion or not yet emerged from it. Today is the only day there is.
What would change in our faith and action if we lived by the truth that “today is the only day there is?” There are those who say that it is a form of license or self-abandon to live for the moment. But thinking of the times and ways Jesus used the word “today,” there is an urgency – and a scale – that comes with a focus on today.
Honestly, the climate data nearly paralyzes me when I consider the enormity of the challenge, until I consider what I might do about it today in my corner of creation. This is not an ultimate solution to the crisis, but it is a place to start, which is way better than paralysis.
So too, with the tragedy and horror of mass shootings in stores, schools, theatres, and places of worship across the American landscape. And with the grip of addiction afflicting so many friends and family we love. Where do we start? How do we move forward? Today is the only day to try – or to try again – to address these places of pain.
The decline of the Christian church in North American culture is well documented. Anyone who says they know the solution to this situation is someone I tend not to believe. So vast and deep are the causes, so multiple the effects. And yet, across our churches and communities, there are followers of Jesus who Jesus is calling today to act in love, joy, hope, and peace to be God’s light.
The time is long past to try to relitigate what we’ve done wrong in the church to get to where we are today. And it is quite premature to claim that the way forward is clear. But today. Today, there is plenty to do to be God’s people, to do God’s work, and to trust the Spirit of God to bring freshness to our ministry. In that light, your living of today is an urgent matter.