The Dayspring office has been overwhelmed with requests for
copies of Pastor Jane Tews' final sermon, delivered just three
days before the massive stroke that silenced her. Below you will
find that sermon in a form suitable for reading on-line.
It will remain here on the Dayspring home page for several weeks,
after which it will be archived.
If you prefer to hear the sermon in Jane's voice, strong and clear
until the very end, you may listen to the sermon here:
For those who wish to keep a permanent copy,
you may download the audio file by clicking
and a PDF version is available for download here.
Living Tomorrow Today
Acts 2:1-14, John 7:37-39
A sermon by Rev. Jane Tews
June 2, 2013
What would you do if you knew you had only one day to live? That was the question Gunther Klempnauer asked 625 students in 12 different German vocational schools. He reported a wide variety of responses including the expected, "get drunk, get a fix, get a girl." Some had more profound responses -- they said they would spend the time with family, others wanted to climb a mountain, or sail their boat, yet others wanted to go on a picnic with their friends. One student said that he would spend time going through his photo albums and savoring the memories. An 18-year-old young woman wrote, "I would like to spend my last evening in church alone with God and thank him for my full and happy life." An unusual response from one so young!
It is a question many of us more than likely have asked ourselves or been asked at some point - it is an arresting question and a daunting exercise to answer it. Someone once found Francis of Assisi hoeing his garden and put the question to him. Francis replied, "I would finish hoeing my garden." And I remember how John Wesley was asked what he would do if he knew Jesus' second coming would occur the next day. Wesley replied he would continue with what he planned to do, including calling on a friend and preaching that night in a nearby town. A newspaper columnist imagined what the world would be like if everyone suddenly knew there were only 24 hours left to live. He said the telephone circuits would be overloaded with desperate people trying to call family and friends in order to say "I love you!"
We are such creatures of time that we are both fascinated and terrorized by its restraints and its termination. Is that why we are not only driven by what, interestingly, we call "deadlines," yet we procrastinate in order to delay closure? Our philosophers, theologians, poets and writers have all addressed the dilemma that time creates for us. St. Augustine candidly admitted, "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I don't know." The playwright, Arthur Miller, observed, "The word 'NOW' is like a time bomb thrown through the window and it is ticking." And a major league relief baseball pitcher was asked, "How does the future look to you?" His reply, "Just like
the present, only longer." Ortega y Gasset put it this way, "We cannot put off living until we are ready. Time is coercive. Life is fired at us point blank." Jesus told a parable that warned, "You fool! This very night your soul will be required of you." (I confess when I had a stroke those were about the first words that came to mind as I waited in the emergency room and I made a quick mental review of all the things I had put off or "planned" to do.) Jesus often talked of how time is transformed through belief in Him, how God's eternity is given to those who claim it through him, so that faithful believers can live tomorrow today and no longer be anxious about when time ends.
In the Gospel of John, this is what Jesus is saying when during the Feast of Tabernacles in the Temple in Jerusalem, he spoke to the people as the Feast was reaching its climax in what is called the "Great Day" - an eighth day symbolizing a day beyond time held on the first day of the week. Water that had been carried each morning from the spring of Gibon near the Temple Wall was poured out by the priest at the high altar and flowed to the ground, reminding people of God's salvation for them. It was then that Jesus declared, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me... out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water." John adds, "Now this Jesus said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive."
At Pentecost these words of Jesus were fulfilled as God's spirit came upon the believers huddled in Jerusalem with power and persuasion making all things new, joining heaven and earth, time and eternity. It was such an engulfing experience that the Evangelist Luke used metaphors to describe it: "like the sound of 'rushing wind,' tongues as of fire" and believers speaking in a divine language that those assembled understood as if they were hearing in their own native language. The reality of what happened to people within the community of faith needed no metaphor, for it became an assurance and an awareness that moved them to laugh at fear and death and go forth to turn the world upside down. They, in truth, began to live tomorrow today. Knowing with certainty that they had been raised with Christ, they experienced eternal life in such a way that they were moved beyond conventional categories of time and space.
This is the lasting promise and meaning of Pentecost for us, as Peter put it in his Pentecost Day sermon, "For this promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, everyone whom the Lord God calls." When we are open and receptive to the Spirit's presence, we are made so alive that we begin to live tomorrow today. No longer do we look for some defining event or some future pleasure to settle and center our lives. No longer will we be concerned with "the
grass is greener" quest for something to be found somewhere other than where we are, or on some distant day, month or year that will resolve our frustrations, fulfill our aspirations and make us happy.
No longer will we wait for some future vision or expectation to make all the difference and make our world shine: such as when we finally find and fall in love with the "right" person, when we land the "right" job, when we make and save enough money, when we lose 20 pounds, when the kids grow up, when our golf score is in the low 70s or when we retire. We've all known too many people who kept waiting to be happy until it was too late, who kept putting off what would have brought them peace and joy, who didn't take time or were afraid to enjoy life, who missed the miracle of love and who were blind to the beauty at their feet because they were looking for it somewhere else. And how many people have blessed your life - and my life - because filled with the Spirit, they lived every day in eternity's sunrise and celebrated the daily wonder of walking with God.
When we live tomorrow today and someone were to ask us what would we do if Jesus were to return tonight, and the world would end, or that we would die within 24 hours, we could say as Francis of Assisi did, "I'd finish painting the bedroom, or do the laundry or mow the lawn," or "I'd keep my dinner plans with friends," or "I'd go ahead and run the 10K race," or "I'd go shopping for my grandson's birthday present," or "I'd play with the children and give them a bath and put them to bed."
Many years ago a child in a church I was serving received a successful liver transplant and now is a happy healthy young man. For a while, every year his mother would send me a progress report on the anniversary of his receiving the transplant. One year his mother sent this letter which I want to share with you, not as boasting, but as illustration. Here is what she wrote:
Dear Jane, this year will mark the third anniversary of Evan's successful liver transplant. It seems every anniversary I am reminded anew of the people I want to thank. I just want to let you know how very much your support meant to me during the challenging time... Thank you!
Many people ask how I survived this experience so well. That is an easy question to answer. It was and is my faith and the compassion and support of those around me. This challenge was certainly a journey of faith for me. For me the key to making this journey was to completely give Evan over to God. I knew that however painful the results might be, even if Evan was taken from me, that it was truly all right. I knew that this was something I
was not meant to understand in my lifetime and with this realization came peace. I have also enclosed a letter that I wrote last year to the anonymous donor family.
In this letter the mother wrote:
I write to you in the hope that you may find some comfort in knowing that life and hope were born out of your loss. I feel compelled to write to you as the second anniversary of your child's death and the anniversary of my child's liver transplant approaches.
Part of me grieves with you, and please know that not a day goes by that you and your child are not thought of warmly. The transplant was truly a miracle in our lives. My child is doing well, and leads for the most part, a normal life. Every day for a transplant recipient is a gift. I wanted you to know that your gift has given me two years with my child that I would not have had otherwise and the hope of many tomorrows to come. I thank you for your courage in the face of your devastating loss, and I wish you peace and comfort. God bless you.
At Pentecost God joined heaven and earth and revealed how time is held for us in eternity. Through God's presence in us, we can live tomorrow today, every day, and let God fill us with glory in Christ, even when tomorrow breaks in shadows.