A wise man once said, “Never miss a chance to….blank.” How would you complete the sentence?
Never miss a chance . . . because you never know if there might not be another opportunity. So carpe diem. Seize the day.
Here’s another way to think about it:
If you died tomorrow, how would you be remembered?
Last week we heard a parable from Jesus about a rich man whose farm did so well that he tore down his barns and built bigger ones to store everything. He thought he had it made….until God told him his life was over. He’s remembered for his greed, but what if he’d shared all that, or had a big banquet and invited the whole village? Then instead he’d be remembered for his generosity.
This week I’ve been stuck on the Stevie Wonder song “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.” The bigger problem, though, is that we worry about the wrong things.
In today’s scripture, Jesus says, “What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving.” (Luke 12:29 MSG)
What are some ways we respond to God’s giving? (Be thankful, be generous, be faithful)
In the long-running TV series Heartland, the older sister Lou is proud of her MBA. In season 7, Lou’s latest business venture is buying the only diner in town. She’s intent on preserving the long-standing traditions of the quaint diner, but her dad comes in with new ideas. He puts in a big TV so people can hang out and watch hockey games together (it’s set in Canada) and spend more money. Lou hates this idea, but she’s not having any luck getting her dad to see her perspective. So, she puts in a comment box and passes out comment cards to everyone who comes in. Lou is certain the comments will show her dad that people agree with her about taking out the TV, but instead the comments are all in favor of the TV and the fun atmosphere her dad has brought to the place. The biggest surprise for Lou is that people have also noticed her negativity and fussiness about the changes her dad has made. Instead of suggesting they get rid of the TV, people suggest they get rid of Lou and get a bigger TV!
Lou found out through the comment cards how she was being remembered. She was more concerned about her bruised ego than what was good for her customers. She should have been thankful for her dad’s ideas, especially since they increased their business by 20%! Lou learns her lesson and has time to change, but we can’t always count on that. We don’t know what tomorrow might bring.
One of the big lessons for us during the last two years is that everything can change in an instant, and when it does, we might find that we’ve been fussing over the wrong things.
Proverbs 27:1 says, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”
What if each day we look for opportunities to respond to God by being thankful, and being generous and loving.
There’s a girl named Danya who decided when she was 13 that she was an atheist. She didn’t believe God existed. As she got older and went to college, she read widely and studied different religions, but none of that changed her belief. While she was at college, her mother died of cancer, and one of the ways Danya dealt with her grief was to go walking at night and talk to the moon. She found that the moon was a good listener. Gradually she felt something else stir inside of her as she walked and talked to the moon, something hard to put into words. She began to see the world differently, and was amazed to feel a new stillness inside of herself. She started to feel connected to something bigger than herself, and was surprised to realize that she was starting to believe in God. She was uncomfortable with many of the images and ideas about God that she had found in religious writings and songs, but she realized that these were metaphors for someone else’s image of God, but God is ultimately beyond language.
Gradually she started going back to her synagogue and keeping sabbath. One of her favorite rabbis, Abraham Heshel, called the sabbath a “sanctuary in time,” a special space to connect with God, self, and other people. As she continued to find her study of Judaism thought-provoking and life-giving, she went to rabbinical school and became a rabbi and activist. Now Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg teaches her children and her congregation that showing up to love and help other people is how we love God. She says we love God when we love God’s creation.
In our reading today, in verse 33, Jesus tells us how: “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.”
We respond to God by being thankful, being generous and loving, and being faithful.
James 4:13-15 13 Now listen to me, you that say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money.” 14 You don’t even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears. 15 What you should say is this: “If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that.”
If the Lord is willing. Deo valente means God willing. Trust God for tomorrow and never miss a chance to…..be thankful, be generous, be loving, be faithful today, to make an difference today.
What will we be remembered for? If you only have one opportunity to show God’s love to someone, what would you do or say so that God’s love is what they remember?
What will our church be remembered for? If someone only has one encounter with our church, what would we want them to take away from that encounter? Will they walk away knowing that God is generous and loves them unconditionally? Or will they feel ashamed or judged? Or invisible?
What will our church be remembered for?
Why does it matter? Because we are each unique representatives of God.
How do we respond to God? Jesus encourages us to “Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.”
Remember the wise words of Stevie Wonder: Don’t you worry about a thing….God is helping us, so don’t worry about the wrong things. What to wear. Having enough. Worry instead about things we can do to make a difference.
Florence Nightingale is someone who made a difference. It’s hard for us to understand how hard it was for Florence to do what she did because the world has changed so much since she lived. She grew up in a wealthy family. In the 1800’s, a woman of high birth was not supposed to work, but Florence felt God had called her to do good. She became a nurse, a profession that is quite respected now, but in her time was not a respectable profession. Germ theory was not yet widely accepted, but she insisted on handwashing, and fresh linens on patients’ beds every day.
We know her as a nurse during the Crimean War, but she was also gifted with statistics and graphical presentations of information, something that was a new concept at the time. These presentations and the respect she had earned from her work in Crimea, along with her family connections and skill as a writer, gained her access to military leaders and politicians, and her ideas led to hospital reforms, and public health and sanitation changes that helped the lifespan of British citizens to increase by 20 years.
What many people don’t know is that Florence also lived with chronic pain and fatigue from an unknown illness from her time in field hospitals that left her with frequent fevers, night sweats, intense muscle and joint pain, and depression. Though we can’t know for sure what her illness was, National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day is now celebrated on Florence’s birthday because her symptoms are similar to fibromyalgia.
Florence was a woman of deep faith, but like her nursing practices, her beliefs were unconventional for her time. Florence questioned the concept of hell, and thought that a truly good and loving God would find a way to save all people. One time she was taking care of a dying prostitute who was sure she would be condemned by God. Florence comforted her with these words: “My girl, are you not now more merciful than the God you think you are going to? Yet the real God is far more merciful than any human creature ever was or can ever imagine.”
“…God is far more merciful than any human creature ever was or can ever imagine.”
God is merciful and loving. If God loves the flowers and the birds enough to take care of them, how much more will he take care of us. God does this through people like Florence Nightingale. God does this through people like us.
May the beautiful birds and flowers remind us of God’s generous and abundant love and grace, and remind us to keep on looking for ways to be generous about sharing God’s abundance with the people around us and around the world.
 Photo by Adam Rhodes on Unsplash
 Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash
 Daneen Akers, Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, Watchfire Media: 2019, pp.50-55.
 By Unknown artist, ILN Staff, after Unidentified contributor to The Illustrated London News – The Illustrated London News, 24 February 1855, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1790790
 Daneen Akers, Troublemakers and Unconventional Saints, Watchfire Media: 2019, pp.56-61.
 Photo by Mark Stoop on Unsplash