The urgency of now


"We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light."

(John 9:4-5, The Message)

By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.

English novelist Charles Dickens wrote this famous line about the dark days in France just prior to the French Revolution: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."

That quote describes how I feel as the Labor Day holiday nears. I consider this the best of times because, as August gives way to September, this national holiday is the sign that my favorite season of the year—autumn—is not far away. The hot fury of summer is losing its grip, and the hours of daylight are becoming shorter. The brilliant colors of fall will soon burst out on trees and shrubbery everywhere.

For me, this also is the best of times because I’m a sports enthusiast. In fall, it seems the games we play merge into one big ball of activity. Baseball pennant races are right around the corner; football, just a coin toss away. Time to remind Kevin Durant to dust off his sneakers because basketball quickly will follow.

Ah, but this is also the worst of times. Gone is summer’s sense of leisure; vacations have concluded. School bells are ringing, signaling families to rise earlier, pressured with decisions about what to wear, what’s for lunch, where’s the homework, what’s today’s schedule. It’s time to resume those duties in the neighborhood carpool, and traffic increases for all drivers.

How do we pick back up the expected routines of this time? How can we again take on the challenges when the mind hasn’t caught up with the body? It’s a real dilemma for a lot of us.

Every year when I get to this difficult, bittersweet time, there is a Scripture that brings me comfort.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, "We need to be energetically at work for God, working while the sun shines, for when night falls, the workday is over."

This passage gives me a sense of purpose, a sense of urgency, and a sense of mission.

Jesus is telling his followers that "God has sent me to do a job. I have a goal to reach and a mission to fulfill, and I have to finish my work in the time I’ve been given, no matter what the challenges may be."

So it is with you and me. Just like Jesus, we’ve all been given something to do, whether you write sermons for a living or teach children, work in an office or in the field, take care of the aging or the preschoolers, travel for your job or stay at home trying to make life better for those around you. Somehow you must go on with your tasks. If you fail to fulfill your God-given mission, who will do it for you?

I have found that the start, the beginning of work is the most difficult step. The hardest sentence of any sermon is the first line; the most agonizing moment is getting past the temptation that claims "It’s not worthwhile starting now."

Once you start, there is no telling how far you will go or how much you will get done.

For Christ, there was no standing still in idleness, no wandering in circles. The path was plain, and the light was clear. He went about his ministry "while the sun shines"! That line asserts the sense of urgency that filled his work.

It must do the same for ours.

Today soon becomes yesterday. Yesterday is good for the lessons that experience yields. Yesterday is good for memories and joys that never fade.

But yesterday also is like a strongbox, which cannot be opened to deposit even one task from today.

So today is the time, the only time, to get things done.

While the sun shines—that makes today urgent. While the sun shines—that gives me the spirit to meet this day’s demands.

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