This is right about the time of year that, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial from 2015, “resolutions die” (“The Week Resolutions Die: Look for Gyms to Get Less Busy; What It Takes to Make a New Routine Stick” as cited by Dale Meyer [themeyerminute.typepad.com], January 22, 2019). Though untold people commit themselves to New Year’s resolutions, only 25% of them will still be following through on them by the time we get to February.
Churches and other communities of Christ-followers may not always make New Year’s resolutions but we do set goals (usually of the appropriately modest variety) for ourselves. When our goals seem frustrated we are perhaps tempted to live either in the the past or set our hopes so firmly on the future we lose sight of the opportunities God is placing in front of us right now. The first sermon of Jesus recorded in the 2-part Bible book entitled “Luke-Acts” reminds me of that. It consists of Jesus reading out loud from Isaiah 61 about one anointed by the Spirit and sent by God to proclaim Good News to the poor, liberty to captives, and other good things. Jesus follows this reading with the words “Today this Scripture stands fulfilled in your hearing!” (4:20). But the congregation in the synagogue that Sabbath doesn’t seem to hear. They remember Jesus as the carpenter’s go-fer…a son of Joseph. They sit back with arms folded waiting to see a future unfold where this hometown boy-made-good will bring abundant blessings to them. In other words, “yesterday” was comfortably familiar. “Tomorrow” held promise worth waiting for. Why pay much attention to “today”? “Today” seemed unworthy of their attention.
I can relate. It’s easy to overlook what God is doing today because I either assume the past was a more glorious time or the future will inevitably bring new opportunities. The Gospel of Luke teaches otherwise. The message of the angels to the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks? “Today, a Savior has been born, who is Christ the Lord!” (2:11) The response of a crowd that sees a paralytic healed? “We have seen extraordinary things today!” (5:26) Jesus’ assurance to Zacchaeus, the small-in-stature tax collector who invited the Savior over to his place? “Today salvation has come to this house!” (19:9) It would have been possible to announce Jesus’ birth, respond to Jesus’ healing, assure a new follower of Christ that God’s promises were fulfilled without ever mentioning “today.” All the way to the end of this Gospel, when Jesus promises the thief on the cross “You will be with me in Paradise…today” (23:43) we find the Good News of God’s righteous reign isn’t just in the past or for “someday,” but for now. It isn’t just for yesterday or tomorrow. Thanks to the crucified and risen Christ it was for the people of Luke’s Gospel (and for us!) to enjoy today.
Wherever our commitments take us this week…no matter how the needs of the poor, the captive, the blind, or the downtrodden may manifest themselves in our lives right now…the Spirit-anointed Son of God at work in our midst empowers us to be at work “today.” Even if we don’t always keep our resolutions (or achieve the goals we set for ourselves) this month, the sufficient grace of Jesus’ strength “today” recreates us for the opportunities to serve those in need whom we encounter under every new sunrise this year.