One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus

Kate Lasso

November 17, 2019

One day at a time, sweet Jesus
That's all I ask of You
Just give me the strength to do
What I have to do

Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus
And tomorrow is a vision of happiness
Lord, help me today, show me the way
One day at a time

When reading through today's scriptures, what really leapt out to me is their focus on covenant renewal — on relationship renewal.  Since we know that God is always pursuing and reaching out and longing for relationship with us, it's only common sense that cultivating renewed relationship with God is really up to us.  It's our decision to extend our hands, our lives and our hearts to God.  This is what is meant in Mark 1:15, "“The time has come,” … “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent (originally metanoeo, meaning change one's mind or think differently) and believe the good news!”   

After warning us about the arrogant and evildoers, today's reading in Malachi says "Not a root or branch will be left to them.  But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays.  And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves."  This week's reading from II Thessalonians warns us against the idle and disruptive, against busybodies who aren't contributing, exhorting us to instead "never tire of doing what is good."

And we are to rejoice!

Psalm 98

Sing to the Lord a new song,
    for God has done marvelous things;
God's right hand and holy arm
    have worked salvation.
The Lord has made his salvation known
    and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
God has remembered God's love
    and faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation of our God.

Putting all of this together, what I understand is that we need to think differently, to see differently, to act differently to live in relationship with God.  I know that, for me, this is not a one-time-only decision or action.  Every minute of every day I have a choice.  Do I want my thoughts, acts and speech to reflect my relationship — my covenanted relationship (if I so choose) with God?  I did some research on what is meant by a covenant relationship in the Christian context, and here is a summary of what I found.

The new covenant relationship God offers us comes through the forgiveness of sin which was made possible through Jesus’ sacrificial death.  Jesus' resurrection confirms the faithfulness of God’s offering of a covenant relationship: there is hope of new life for all of us.  Followers of Christ are also encouraged to enter in covenant relationship with like-minded Christians for support and bringing diverse gifts to Gods' work (1 Cor. 12:12-14).

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 

While this is all very inspiring, and the way I believe we all aspire to live, the truth is, we all fall short of God’s intention, individually and as a community, both as we pursue our relationship with God and also with each other.  Maybe this is why, towards the end of his life, Gordon's spiritual practices included participating in a spiritual support group modeled on 12-step programs.  Here's a modified definition of what a 12-step program is, which will sound very familiar to Church of the Saviour folks:

twelve-step program to bring us closer to God a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from behavioral problems. The process involves the following:

  • admitting that one cannot control one's fear-filled or self-serving impulses;
  • recognizing that God can give strength for us to change and experience metanoia;
  • examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
  • making amends for past errors;
  • learning to live a new life grounded in a desire to follow God's call and as an expression of God's love;
  • helping others who suffer turn towards God.

This is why Jimmy's special song resonates with me as I was thinking about what I would say this morning:

One day at a time, sweet Jesus
That's all I ask of You
Just give me the strength to do
What I have to do

Yesterday's gone, sweet Jesus
And tomorrow is a vision of happiness
Lord, help me today, show me the way
One day at a time

And sometimes it's one hour or one minute at a time, isn't it?  In my mind, we are in a continually state of renewal, of reaching out to grasp God's extended hand, of bringing ourselves into right relationship with the people pres have been created to help us engage in this holy pursuit of relationship with God.  We are encouraged to participate in daily spiritual practices, to attend church and other gatherings regularly, to help organize the life of our community as we are able, to engage in tithing or proportional giving, to go on silent retreat once a year. Over the years, these spiritual disciplines have been found helpful for those seeking a metanoia experience of turning towards God.  As I have participated in 8th Day over the years, I have found these practices to be important in my own personal transformation, both before and since I have become a member of the church.  I wouldn't be the person I am today if I hadn't found 8th Day, and I am thankful, truly grateful, that I belong to such a loving and committed Christian community.  Yet, despite all of these years of transformation, I know that I'm still living my relationship with God — and with people —  one day at a time.

Now, if everything had gone according to plan, today would be the day that we would have been invited to publicly recommit ourselves to 8th Day as members.  But things often don't go according to plan.  In order to arrive at our recommitment ceremony, we've also been engaging in a community-wide reflection process of what we value about 8th Day and how we think 8th Day's structures should be organized to meet our needs.  This week David Hilfiker sent the entire community two different visions for our approach to membership, both which reflect the kinds of values and desire to pursue a covenanted relationship with God in the context of community relationship and support.  A community meeting to discuss these proposals will be held on November 24th, and I hope that we all can attend.  While I won't comment on the content of the proposals this morning, I do want to underscore that the intention is to create an 8th Day structure that supports each and every one of us wherever we are on our journey to a thriving, covenanted relationship with God.  One important question for each of us is:

What support do we need from each other to deepen our relationship with God and more fully express God's purpose in the world?

At the same time, while structures can help us, they can also hinder us, and we certainly shouldn't give so much importance to structures that we are distracted from our own true purpose.  In fact, one of the characteristics of the Church of the Saviour's approach to spirituality is its emphasis on my own responsibility for my spiritual journey.  The Luke passage for this morning helps us understand this point:

Some of Jesus' disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.....”

In her commentary on this passage from November 2013, Kayla McClurg offers the following insights:

Jesus speaks some hard news to his friends. He knows how much we like to lean on systems and structures. Despite their flaws, he knows we depend on them, look to them for reassurance. And he wants us to know: the security we get from our religious, familial and socio-political icons is going to be tested beyond anything we can imagine. You can count on it, Jesus says. The things that give you stability are going to quake and change. They are going to fail to defend and protect you. When this happens—not if but when—when you are cast out from the very systems you have been loyal to, when you are charged with crimes against them even as they are the ones failing you, it is going to be very hard. So Jesus offers a word of advice: endure.  Have his friends learned to trust him enough to hear this word? Are we ready to lean into the grace of upheaval? Can we travel the way of endurance? 

In November 2016, commenting on the same passage Kayla wrote:

Part of the trouble with us—and Jesus sees this clearly and calls us out—is that we prefer to place our hope in the things of this world, to seek our fulfillment from the powers around us, rather than from the eternal. We can see evidence of God’s love being freely given, God’s beauty abundantly evident, God continually pouring out grace upon grace. Yet we hesitate to let our roots go down too deeply into these truths because we also see dangers all around. We see how quickly trouble arises, how impermanent are the structures and people we have trusted in. What we have built up begins to fall, and we feel disappointed in ourselves, one another, and in God.

The disciples point out the beauty of the temple, the seat of power in which they have trusted. As long as the temple stands strong, their hope can be strong. Jesus reminds them that even the most solid elements of our lives will one day fall, will be broken and ruined. Thinking only of the physical building before them, they ask him when this will happen. Jesus is not interested in dates and times; he is interested only in them, in us. “Beware that you are not led astray,” he says. “Many will come who distract you. Do not follow them. You will hear and see terrifying things, but don’t be terrified. Much devastation lies ahead—wars, earthquakes, famines, and plagues. You will be brought up on charges, handed over and persecuted. So many opportunities will be given to you to discover in whom to trust, to learn what can be ultimately depended upon, to remember whose you are.”  Devastation, destruction, disappointment happen. The times in which you live are not, have never been, and will never be, easy. You keep thinking humanity should “be there” by now, living in peace and contentment, but even with all your efforts, things don’t go as you want. Hold on. Don’t panic. God alone is worthy of hope. The pain of our world is beyond our understanding. This does not mean it is beyond God’s.

Ann Barnet recently spoke to me about the difficulties of the times we live in that seem to get worse and worse for people who hold the values we hold dear in 8th Day.  As a community, we need to stand together, to encourage each other, to be brave when the person next to us is fearful; to practice forgiveness; to laugh; to have fun together and remind each other of what a loving community grounded in the values of the God of Creation, seeking a covenant relationship with the God of Creation, looks like. 

What do we need to do, as a community, to help ourselves and each other respond to God's call?  That's why we are here, together as a Christian community.  How can our community help you live out today and tomorrow leaning into God's love and offering that healing, miraculous opportunity to others?  How can our little 8th Day help to keep clear in your mind and heart whom you really belong to?