I rise from my bed of sleep to adore your holy name, to live for you this day, to work with you in the bringing in of your reign, and to find in you eternal life. I consciously renew my calling as this day begins, thanking you for the privilege of living my life in this way. I know that I need to take care of myself if I am to be of any use to those I am called to serve. Grant me grace to walk in health and wholeness. Most of all, thank you that I can live today, knowing that I am your beloved. Amen.
So begins my day. What will you do with this precious and sacred day: February 4, 2019? Today. Now. Jesus reminds his disciples in Matthew 6, “So do not worry about tomorrow, or tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, after spending forty days and nights in the wilderness tempted by the devil, Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth. Luke 4:14-30 tells us that word about Jesus has spread like wildfire. Here is their hometown boy, teaching in the synagogues and being praised by everyone!
On the sabbath, Jesus stands up in the synagogue in Nazareth to read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to liberate the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Just like that, Jesus unveils his mission statement and says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” Today. Now. Everyone is quite impressed by the gracious words flowing from his lips and says, “Wow! Is this really Joseph’s son?” But Jesus isn’t fooled. “I’m sure you’re gonna want me to do miracles in Nazareth, just as I did in Capernaum. But no prophet is ever welcome in the prophet’s hometown.” Well, well.
But they don’t get it, do they? The very people who know Jesus the best expect that he is going to save them. Instead, Jesus disses them! He says that his mission is to minister to the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed. I can just imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of his own people and then saying gently, “Today. Now. This is your mission, too, and it’s not gonna be easy. It may even cost you your life. Still interested?”
But this very day – today – the people of Nazareth are so angry with Jesus for his arrogance than they run him out of town and are just about to throw him off the cliff. But Jesus passes through the crowd and goes on his way.
And what about us? Could today be the day when you and I feed the hungry, care for the poor, house the homeless, shovel snow, show grace, listen attentively, and act prayerfully? Who is God calling you to be today? Who is God calling The United Methodist Church to be today? And who will God call us to be later this month when the General Conference becomes today?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not wait for tomorrow. Martin Luther King Jr. did not wait. Nelson Mandela did not wait. Mother Teresa did not wait. Martin Niemöller did not wait. Archbishop Oscar Romero did not wait. Ghandi did not wait. Archbishop Desmond Tutu did not wait. Today is the day to change the world by modeling hope, grace, mercy, and unity in diversity.
Last week, I had the opportunity to be a part of our annual Advocacy Day in the Iowa Annual Conference. Forty United Methodists gathered to learn more about the legislative issues that are important to our state. Iowa has a part-time legislature that normally meets from January through April. We have a small volunteer group of committed United Methodists who advocate for legislation that aligns with our United Methodist Social Principles. This year the emphasis is on five areas: mental health, poverty, gun safety, the environment, and human rights.
For many years, Iowa United Methodists have had an active presence at the State Capitol. Last week I had the privilege of offering the prayer for both the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives, and a small group of us also met with both Republican and Democratic leaders in the legislature. I was very impressed by our stimulating conversation about these important issues, especially when one of our legislators said, “Those Methodists. They’re going somewhere! They’re a force!”
Yes, we Methodists are going somewhere, and we’re going today! Who is God calling The United Methodist Church to be today? And who is God calling you and me to be today? God’s reign is here, and the mission is now! There is an urgency in our faith that requires us to be faithful now, in this moment of time, because The Spirit of the Lord is upon us today.
But Jesus’ friends don’t quite understand. They keep saying, “But what are you going to do for us? We’re your tribe, your family, your people. What has gotten into you, Jesus? Why are you associating with ‘them’? What’s wrong with you? They’re not worthy.” Rejection. Misunderstanding. They expect what they experienced of Jesus in the past. But Jesus has come to preach, release, recover, liberate, and proclaim.
When? Today. Now. No more delay. No more waiting. God’s reign is here today. So why are you waiting? God can use any person – even you and me – to change the world today. Now!
Last Saturday I attended the funeral for Bishop Judith Craig, who served as the episcopal leader of Michigan from 1984-1992 and West Ohio from 1992-2000. One thing I admired the most about Bishop Craig, who was my bishop for eight years, is that she was unafraid to lead now. She believed that life was too short not to be a witness today, not to be a prophet today, not to show grace today, not to liberate the oppressed today; not to make a difference today.
Now the silence. Now the peace. Now the empty hands uplifted.
Now the kneeling. Now the plea. Now the Father’s arms in welcome.
Now the hearing. Now the power. Now the vessel brimmed for pouring.
Now the body. Now the blood. Now the joyful celebration.
Now the wedding. Now the songs. Now the heart forgiven leaping.
Now the Spirit’s visitation. Now the Son’s epiphany.
Now the Father’s blessing. Now. Now.
Jaroslav J. Vajda 1968 (words), Carl F. Schalk 1969 (music)
If those Methodists are a force and are going somewhere, then who is God calling you to be today … now? Who is God calling The United Methodist Church to be today … now? What will you do with each precious and sacred day? Today. Now.