Spring has finally arrived. We know what comes next: the tax filing deadline, the Boston Marathon and the wonderful season of homegrown garden vegetables. They are all coming. We know that the time to get ready for them is now. We need to collect receipts; jog some extra miles; order those tomato seeds, now. Because if we wait until tax day or race day, or the day we want to taste our homegrown tomatoes, it will be too late.
That’s what Jesus is talking about in the gospel of Luke. He is not talking about avoiding death. None of us gets to avoid that. He IS saying we should not put off making changes that we need to make.
The news this week has shown us, again, that evil and brutality can interrupt our lives at any time, as can negligence, ignorance, hurricanes, cyclones, mudslides and floods. We have been reminded this week that the world can be a very dangerous place. Whether someone suffers violence or an accident or illness or terrible weather has nothing to do with whether or not they are a good person.
The passage from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians suggests otherwise. Paul says that ancient Israelites died in the wilderness because God was not pleased with them. I do not believe that. We do not know the mind of God any more than we know the look or substance or gender of God. In the book of Exodus, God says, “I am who I am.” That is not a lot for us to go on in terms of knowing what God is.
Still, at the heart of Christian thinking there is the notion that somehow, Jesus reveals something important about God’s self. What Jesus is saying to his friends in this gospel is simple and two-fold and probably already familiar to us.
First, Jesus reminds us that the only moment we can do anything with is the present moment. If we need to make changes in our lives, we should make them now. If we keep putting it off until tomorrow, the day will come when we will have waited one day too many.
Second, he points out that change doesn’t happen overnight. “Repentance” is not merely a decision to change. It is the process of making the change. It requires that we make a start and then keep trying. New habits are not formed overnight. Virtues do not appear fully formed in a day. They start as small as glimmers of hope and they grow. With time and care, sun and rain, good soil, good compost and good luck, they take root, mature and bear fruit. It’s a process. Gardeners know that, and so they get started as soon they can.
We know that spring has arrived and that summer is around the corner. Even so, none of us really knows what tomorrow will bring. What we have for sure is “now:” the gift of today and God’s word that God goes with us. That’s enough to make today a good time to get started.