“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Or so the saying goes. And then there’s the darker or somewhat funny version: “Today is the first day of what’s left of your life.” There’s the poet, Mary Oliver’s, most beautiful version: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Perhaps the Old Testament version is Joshua’s words: “Choose this day who you will serve!” And Jesus’s version is: “Who do you say that I am?”
As we come out of pandemic with fits and starts, it is this discombobulation of questions that won’t leave me alone. And I feel it chew at me not only personally but for our church, the Episcopal Church, the Christian church, and the world. Who are we as we come out of pandemic? How have we changed? How are we able to choose to be more clearly, strongly, truly people of the living Christ? The layers and possibilities are daunting! Am I praying the way I want to pray, listening for God in all my life? Am I choosing to do the things for ministry that are really helping people and God? Is my worship of God rich for God or simply what I want to do? How do I love my neighbor? How do I love God? How do I love myself?
And for a couple months now, I have waited patiently for God to give me a clear and simple answer, but here’s the thing: in the beautiful complexity of our wild and precious lives clear and simple answers are rare indeed. The closest we come is probably Jesus’ summation of the law: “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” But love is a loaded word. And really so are the words God, neighbor and self. What that looks like today for me is probably different from what that looks like for you today. And neither of us can guess what it will look like tomorrow or the next day! Jesus spoke of following him and living in the way. Long before followers of Jesus were called “Christian” in Antioch, we were called “people of the Way.” Sometimes I fear we are people in God’s way – impediments to the Kingdom. So perhaps that is a signpost for our way forward: how do I/we live in a way that doesn’t get in God’s way?
As we move into this new day, let us examine what we are about as individuals and
as a church. Let us pray and listen for God’s voice. Let us explore The Way. And perhaps we should even spend less time trying to measure just how far down the way we are getting toward success or the Kingdom or God or whatever we imagine is at the end of the Way. Perhaps our task is to live fully on the way. What is it that you and I will do with the precious gifts of life and time and love we have been given in these days?
The Very Rev. Gary Barker