Friday, September 29, 2017

Carpe Diem (Psalm 118:24; 84:10) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

A day in the life of a mother!  The Fantasy:  Your little ones sit quietly at the kitchen table and hum along with the music of Beethoven, they are absorbed in reading their age-appropriate books while quietly eating their breakfast.    Ahhh, you think to yourself. This is what life's all about.

The Reality: Your little darlings simultaneously shriek, "Mine!" as they rip the latest Bob the Builder coloring book in two.  Between loads of laundry, you smell smoke. You rush to the kitchen to find the slice-and-bake cookies burning in the oven.  You hear a loud crash where your children are playing.  You stand at the counter and remember the days when you thought you'd actually spend your life doing something worthwhile, like being a brain surgeon by day and lawyer for the poor by night.  Yes, just another day in the life of a mother.”

How do you begin your day?  “Oh, it’s another day.”  Or “Oh, it’s another day!

What is a day?  You can look at it from different perspectives.  From science, a day is 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds.  A day is a complete rotation of the earth on its axis.    From religion, days are significant.  In Judaism Friday sunset to Saturday sunset is the Sabbath Day, a day of rest in remembrance of God’s resting on the 7th day after creating the world.  In the book of Genesis we read: “Let there be light.  And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness, and God called the light Day.”  Yom is the Hebrew word for day. Tov is Hebrew for good.  Yom Tov means good day, see Hebrew isn’t that tough.

In Christianity there are two words in Greek for day - kost and hemera.  Christmas Day remembers Jesus’ birth, Good Friday recalls Jesus’ death, and Easter Day celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.  Our nation recognizes special days.   New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and others.

A day must never be taken for granted.  Why?  Biblically days are sacred, a day is holy, because a single day is God’s idea, God’s creation, a gift of God’s grace.

Let’s turn to the wisdom of the psalmists.  The psalmists bring a theological perspective, a spiritual framework for living each day.  A day is not an accident.  A day is not a spontaneous phenomenon with no known cause.  The day is a creation of God.

In Psalm 118 a king leads Israel in a liturgy of thanksgiving for deliverance after a battle.  The king lifts his heart in gratitude to God for victory.  He says:  “The Lord is my strength and my song, he has become my salvation.  The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things.  I will give you thanks for you answered me, you have become my salvation.  The lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.  The lord is God and he has made his light shine upon us.  His love endures forever.”   The psalmist praises God and acknowledges God’s presence and sovereign will on that triumphant day.   Can you think of a spectacular, momentous day where you have praised God?

In Psalm 84 we read: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts.  My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.   For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”    Living for one day in the grace and presence and peace of God, is better than living a 1000 days apart from God.  Living one day that is pleasing to God and that praises God is better than living a thousand days of dishonoring God and not acknowledging God’s existence.   Psalm 90 says:  “Our days are like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the evening it fades and withers.  For our days pass away, our years come to an end like a sign.  So teach us to number our days that we may gain a wise heart.”  It is a prayer asking God to help you live each day fully, wisely, to seek God’s blessing each day.  Have you ever prayed such a prayer?

This biblical understanding of the import of a single day is identical to the ancient phrase:  “Carpe Diem!”  It’s a phrase from Horace, a Roman poet, who lived in the 1st century B.C. from book 1 of his work Odes.   It’s a Latin word translated as - seize the day.  Horace uses the word not in the sense of exploit the day, but in the sense of enjoy each day, make the most of each day, live each day fully, appreciate the day, stop and smell the roses, take action today, rather than thinking you can relax because everything will naturally fall into place in the future.

Scripture says that every day is unique, without parallel.   No two days are the same.  Does that ring true for you?   Each day is an adventure.  You never know what it will bring.  No groundhog day in God’s plan, where we wake up and live the same day over and over, like the actor Bill Murray experienced in his hit movie Groundhog Day in the early nineties.

Andrea Boydston writes: “If you woke up breathing, congratulations.  You have another chance.”  Each day is a new opportunity, to try something new, to make amends for yesterday, to get it right, to redeem yourself, to forgive, to re-arrange your priorities, to change your life.

Another author wrote: “When your life flashes before your eyes, make sure you’ve got plenty to watch.”  Don’t waste or squander your days.  God says make the most of each day that I give you.  Abraham Lincoln wrote: “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years.”  Many days in a lifetime are indeed a gift of grace.  But in God’s eyes it’s not the quantity of life, but the quality, the purpose and priorities, the obedience, the faith and worship, the morality, the love of God and others, which you embody that counts.

Stephen Levine wrote: “If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say?”  Then he adds, “well what are you waiting for?  Live each day as if it were your last.”   I agree, is there something important you want to do, or someone you want to talk to, then what are you waiting for?

One of life’s illusions is that today is not decisive; we can always put things off until tomorrow.  It is the law of procrastination.  Each day is a loan from God.  God has made an investment in you.  Every day represents God’s eternal investment of our lives.

Was a single day important to a film student in New York City?  This story happened this year.   After entering a New York City subway station, 19-year-old film student Cameron suffered a seizure while waiting for a train. As his body convulsed out of control, the young man stumbled down the platform and fell onto one of the tracks—directly in the path of an inbound train.

A 50-year-old construction worker named Wesley Autrey saw it happen.  Standing on the platform with his two young daughters, Autrey realized that nobody else in the station was going to help. According to later interviews, he decided: "I'm the only one to do it." Placing himself in great danger, Autrey jumped down onto the tracks and grabbed hold of Cameron. With seconds to spare, he rolled with the younger man into a drainage ditch cut between two tracks. An instant later, the train cars thundered over both of them with only inches to spare. Amazingly, neither man was injured.

When interviewed, he said: “Good things happen when you do good." "I just did it because I saw someone needed help."  Carpe Diem.

God calls us as believers to consider our lives and our days theologically, in light of His presence.  To remember and acknowledge that our sovereign God is the author of each new breath we take, of each new beat of our heart, and the maker of each new day we live.

Each day offers many opportunities to serve, to help, to forgive, to reconcile, to learn, to reach out, to get out of your comfort zone, to take a chance.  Each day is an opportunity for you to draw closer to God and to do something for God, for others and God’s kingdom.  Each day is an opportunity to learn and grow.  Live it enthusiastically.  Live it purposefully.  Live it for all its worth.

I also think of the example of many of our older members, like 101 year old Marian Grenfell, who volunteered at CCSA  until  just a few years ago,  who played tennis and swam in the ocean until a few years ago, who witnessed and served the Lord faithfully and enthusiastically.  You all have one thing in common – gratitude for God’s grace on the cross, gratitude for the gift of your life, which translates into a generous spirit, an appreciation for life, genuine humility, and a deep faith and commitment to serve and glorify God until you take your very last breath.

You can’t change yesterday and you can’t control tomorrow.  Dedicate your past and trust your future to God.  Today is your day!  Your opportunity!  God will empower you to live in God’s grace for today.

Never underestimate what God can do in and through your life in a single day.  Our hero from New York didn’t.  Begin each day spending time with God in prayer and devotions.  Wake up saying: “Good morning GodUse me today for your glory.”    Carpe Diem.  Why?  “Because this is the day that the lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Yom Tov.

I close with this Celtic prayer:  I arise today in the strength of a mighty Creator, I arise today in the strength of a rising Savior, I arise today in the strength of a life-giving Spirit, I arise today in the strength of the mighty three.”  Amen!

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