That Opportunity May Not Come Your Way Again: Old First E-pistle 01.08.14

That Opportunity May Not Come Your Way Again: Old First E-pistle 01.08.14

Time flies, often even when you aren’t having fun…

I have an elderly friend who points out that the beginning of the end of life is when we live mostly in memory, rather than in hope. I think I first heard that suggestion from Bill Coffin in the pulpit of the Riverside Church. When our memories are our escape, rather than a stimulus for another day to try and do better and go further, the end for some lives begins very early indeed.

One of my former parishioners in Brooklyn, as she slowed down and didn’t leave the house much, used to love visits. She actually tried to trick people into coming by to visit. When Mildred called and needed something, no matter what she asked you to get, you could bet that what she really needed was company.

But inevitably visits come to an end, even if getting out of Mildred’s apartment was never easy. After a hundred goodbyes and as many other added things she needed to tell you, as you finally thought you were free, closing the door, she’d call out, “Come again, soon. Just stop by. Short notice or no notice is fine. I done make arrangements too far in advance any more. And, anyway, where else could I be… what else could I be doing?”

Time is finite. Therefore, choose carefully what you do. Because there’s not time to do everything. There might not even be enough time to do the important things. I’ve always worried that too late I might realize that there was something desperately important that I should have done, but didn’t. Because I didn’t realize it was important. Or because I wasted my time with things of lesser importance. It almost doesn’t matter, there’s that experience of feeling the floor drop out from underneath you or your stomach suddenly clench because you have realized it’s too late.

So do what matters most. Even if it turns out you were wrong about what matters mosts, there’s the consolation that you did what at the time you felt mattered most!

(My Grandma Caine with her Ben Franklinesque advice would probably add “And don’t leave things half done,” but I can’t really pass that along without the confession that I often leave things half undone.)

Beloved, we only get so much time. That’s such a hard and fast rule we spend a lot of time and unconscious trying to deny it. That denial often provides us with a little bit more comfortable space, but not one more second of time. It might even occasion some wasting of the precious moments that we are given.

When our time is exhuasted, we cannot get anymore. And none of us knows how much we are going to get. I suspect for many of us, part of our limitedness as human beings, is that we never quite get enough time. At least not time when we were able to do what we later think we should have. Therefore, the longer we put something off, the greater the risk we will run out.

Often I know where the E-pistles come from. Whether or not I share it in the text of the message, I know what happened or what someone said that got me thinking a certain way or asking a specific question, and the essay that becomes the E-pistle flowed from there.

But I’m not sure where this “tempus fugit” message sprang from. And I admit, that’s a bit ominous! Still, I’m pretty sure it’s true.

Seize the moment, beloved. Figure out what is most important to you and live your life accordingly. Interviews with terminal patients show that they often have something they wished they would have accomplished. There are the big trips — visiting the Galapogos or Antartica. And the the big deeds — effecting world peace, curing cancer, figuring out how the church could reach more people with a message of hope and redemption.

But most of us have more mundane hopes, often ones we can still accomplish if we’re given a little time and some quality of life with our loved ones. Say your thank-yous. Offer your forgiveness. Share the blessings that only you can extend.

Because once the time is past…

It reminds me of the image that has haunted me most of my adult years, I think I first heard it in a sermon at college about Zaccheus. About how we can never know how often in our lives Jesus might come nearby. So that whenever we have such a close-encounter, we ought do whatever is necessary, even climb a tree, in order to get a glimpse of our Savior, And if we get luck, we might even have an encounter with him…

See you in church,

Michael