Freeing Ourselves from Tomorrow
First Baptist Church Laurens
July 6, 2014
The first community that Ann Marie and I lived in while married was the small town of Castalia, North Carolina. At the time, and, I would assume still today, Castalia has a population of roughly 500 people on a good day. One of the things I remember about that community is that the city limit signs proclaimed Castalia as “the place to be on the 4th of July”. This came from the fact that Castalia hosted an annual 4th of July celebration complete with a parade, entertainment, food, prayers for America and a rather impressive fireworks show to end the day. On the 4th of July, Castalia was a happening place – as a result people came from all around to enjoy the day and to celebrate.
Having said that, I don’t think Castalia can put up much of a challenge to Bristol, Rhode Island when it comes to 4th of July celebrations. Did you know that Bristol is said to be the town in the United States with the longest continuous celebration of Independence Day? In fact, I read just this week that the very first 4th of July Celebration in Bristol was held on July 4, 1777 when cannons were fired in Bristol 13 times in both the morning and the evening to represent the 13 colonies and to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. By 1785, Bristol had established a yearly celebration similar to the one that it has continued to carry out until this very day including all of the usual aspects that come to mind when we think of the 4th. In fact, in Bristol, the Independence Day Celebration actually begins on June 14th which is Flag Day and culminates with the 4th of July festivities including the Bristol 4th of July parade which is the oldest continuous parade in the United States. (From the Wikipedia.com entry on Bristol, Rhode Island.)
I share about Castalia and Bristol because, just as we have done this morning, we as Americans have long appreciated the chance to celebrate and to be thankful for our freedoms. We don’t take our freedoms of speech, conscious or religion lightly. These are indeed rare gifts even in the 21st century world and it is good that we take time to be grateful.
I share this as well because the Bible also speaks regularly about our freedoms. In the scripture, the focus on freedom, generally speaking, is related to the freedoms that come our way through our relationship with God that reach their zenith in Jesus. Through Christ, we are free from the consequences of sin, we are free from hopelessness and we are free from the power of death itself. These are some of the more major and broader ways that we speak about our freedoms at people of faith.
At the same time, there are other freedoms that God desires to offer to us through our relationship with him that also litter the pages of both the Old and the New Testament. One of those is a freedom that we might be prone to forget but that is at the very heart of our text for today. For you see, throughout the scriptures, the bible invites us to embrace the fact that God wants us to be freed from the grip of tomorrow so that we might be able to more fully and completely live today.
This I think, is an important and profound word for us to hear and to return to over and over again for the truth is that I believe with all of my heart that our ability to live the good life today depends at least in part on our ability to let go of tomorrow. Allow me to take just a few minutes to probe this idea further by making two basic and practical points that I think all of us can benefit from.
On the one hand, the Bible in general, and our verse for today from Proverbs 27 in particular, invite us to free ourselves from both the perceived worries and the perceived joys of tomorrow so that we can fully embrace the joys of today. One of the aspects of our Proverb for today is the recognition that despite what we may think, we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. We may think that we do and we may convince ourselves that we do but the truth is that only God knows the future and we are not God. In turn, it is important to embrace this reality in light of both the expected joys and sorrows of tomorrow.
If we are really excited about what we think is going to happen tomorrow, our approach is often to want to quickly get today over with. In turn, we often live with the perspective that if I can just get through today or if I can just get through this week, life will be good. If I can just trudge along until Friday comes or the holidays or summer vacation, life will be worth living. As we live this way, the possibilities of the day we are currently living, and which are fully known, are often ignored or squandered because we are so future focused.
We do this as well when it comes to our worries about the future. Just as tomorrow overwhelms today when we think tomorrow is going to be enjoyable, tomorrow gobbles up today in an even more profound way when we worry that tomorrow is going to be difficult or hard. Even though our deep worries and fears about tomorrow often never come to fruition and are regularly ill-founded, so often, they make our today miserable. Rather than enjoying and embracing what is real and before us today our minds and attention are consumed by what we think will be before us tomorrow.
Again, in both our excitement and in our dread about tomorrow, and in spite of the fact that we could be dead wrong since we don’t know the future, we consistently rob ourselves of the joys of what we do know and where we really are and that is the gift of today.
Back in 1980, the famous former member of the Beatles John Lennon released his last album. He would be killed in December of that same year. The album contained a song dedicated to his youngest of two sons whose name was Sean. Many of you know the song which is called “Beautiful Boy” and contains the lines “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy”. The song is also famous for another line that goes like this “before you cross the street take my hand, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. (Wikipedia.com, using the entries “John Lennon” and “Beautiful Boy”)
What a profound statement that is completely in keeping with the wisdom of this simple verse from Proverbs 27 – life is indeed what happens in the day already here while we busy ourselves with making plans for a future that is not here yet and future that we may just be completely wrong about. In the midst of this way that we so often live, the scriptures call us to free ourselves from our focus on tomorrow that we might enjoy the realities of today.
At the same time and on the other hand, the Bible in general, and our verse for today from Proverbs 27 in particular, also invite us to free ourselves from delaying tasks for an unknown tomorrow that need to be accomplished in today’s known reality. Just as we are good at allowing what we think will happen tomorrow to cloud how we feel about today, we are also prone to allow our assumptions about tomorrow to affect our activities today.
I love the story about the man who put on a pair of pants one day that he had not worn in a long time. As he reached into the pockets, he pulled out a piece of paper. The paper was a claim ticket for a rather expensive pair of shoes that he owned. He had left the shoes at a repair shop over a year ago to have new heels attached and had simply forgotten about them.
The man mentioned his discovery to his wife at breakfast and they discussed the likelihood of whether or not the shoes were still at the shop and waiting on his return. Over lunch that same day, the man went by the shoe shop and sheepishly presented the ticket. Much to his surprise, after searching his inventory, the man behind the counter came back and shared with him that his shoes were indeed still there. But, then, also much to his surprise, the man behind the counter added, “They should be ready in about a week!
Here’s the point — our procrastination and the procrastination of others has simply become accepted as just a part of life in 2014. But that doesn’t change the fact that procrastination is often very, very serious and deadly behavior. After all, procrastination indicates that we have made the same false steps of making assumptions about an unknown and unknowable future.
We assume that that we know that we will have plenty of time tomorrow to do what we want. We assume that we will have the same health and resources available to us tomorrow that we have today. We assume that life tomorrow will give us the same opportunities that life is giving us today. But, as experience should have taught all of us by now, often times we are simply dead wrong in our assumptions. So often, the way that life is today, is not the way life will be tomorrow. And the truth is, we never know what gifts of today will never be ours to enjoy or take advantage of again for as long as we live.
So, whatever God is calling you to do today — do it. Whatever spiritual decisions you need to make today — make them. Whatever actions you need to take with your family today — take them. Whatever you need to do for your health or your welfare — do it now. Don’t wait assuming that tomorrow will be just as fine as today. Free yourself from tomorrow by embracing today.
Several years ago I heard someone say something that I found both insightful and profound. In fact, I have shared his statement with you from this pulpit before and I’ll go ahead and give you fair warning that I will likely share it again one day. The profound word was the reminder that this is the only shot we will ever have at this day.
Do we realize that? Do we live realizing that July 6, 2014 will never ever take place again. This is the only day in the history of humanity that life as we now it in this moment will be ours to enjoy in exactly this way. It is precious. It is a gift. It is ours to use wisely and to enjoy. So, let’s do just that! Amen.