One of the saddest sins is boredom—taking things for granted. The cliché phrases are familiar: If you’ve seen one sunset, you have seen them all. Ocean, flowers, whatever. Been there, done that. Nothing new under the sun.
Six months ago a dear friend was told he had six months to live. We walked his terminal time together. Last week he died. We learned that experiencing things as if for the last time brings the gift of experiencing them as if for the first time. He died gratefully. Sickness, disappointment, and tragedy can trigger such mindfulness. Even aging can. The idea that one might never again see one’s spouse, embrace one’s children, or encounter a blooming dogwood tree—such shadows can transfigure the way we experience the world.
In today’s scripture we encounter the prophet Second Isaiah, who has declared Israel’s sinfulness to be terminal with a deathlike exile awaiting. Yet he promises that this can bring them to encounter God’s Word like rain and snow nourishing the earth with joy, birthing such peace that the mountains shall break into singing and the trees shall clap their hands.
This promise by God is not only of what shall be but of what is now. Shaken by “lastness” into “firstness,” we are birthed with childlike wonder. Eyes opened, ears attuned, touch sensitized, taste honed, and smell alert to the aroma of God. The hymn says it well: “Morning has broken like the first morning” that “Eden saw play!” (umh, no. 145). Blackbirds, spring rain, dew, sunlight—now, again, still, always.
On this day in 1822, Percy Bysshe Shelley, brilliant, adventuresome, carefree, lyric poet, died at age thirty in a sailing accident. O Holy Spirit, how can it be that a poet so much in love with your creation didn’t suspect that it was you who was stirring the sails of his restless soul? Ignite us, as you did him, to the “Skylark” “Cloud,” “Night,” and “West Wind.” Amen.
Even great people in the faith have moments of imperfection. Not all biblical stories are biblical examples. Jacob should have fed his brother out of concern, but he takes advantage of the situation and robs Esau of his birthright. The psalmist asks the Lord to show him how to live. God’s word is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. Paul in Romans contrasts the life of the flesh and the life in the Spirit. Without the power of God, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes in the flesh; but the Spirit sets us free. Jesus reminds us in Matthew that the effectiveness of the gospel is not based on our efforts. We sow the seed, but we cannot control whether it takes root.
Read Genesis 25:19-34. How do you experience God’s “nevertheless”—God’s grace—as you work through the baggage of your birthright?
Read Isaiah 55:10-13. How might experiencing moments as if for the last time bring the joy of a first-time experience?
Read Romans 8:1-11. In learning what spiritual practices strengthen you, what practices did you try that did not work? Now that you know what works, how might working on practices you once found unhelpful grow your faith?
Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. In what unexpected place might you sow seeds of God’s love?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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