Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church

Living In the
Here and Now

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-8

Living in the here and now was one of the most difficult things I have ever tried to learn to do. Have you ever thought about it? It's probably not something most of us think about... and I'm not sure any more why it became a goal of mine many years ago. But at some point I realized that living for the weekend was... in reality... wishing my life away... and life is short enough without wishing it away.

At the time I didn't realize that living in the here and now was the way God really intended for us to live... it was something that I wanted for myself... for my own personal growth. But then some of you have heard me say that I can't really differentiate between my personal growth and my spiritual growth.

What does it mean... to live in the here and now? During this coming week I'd like each of you to consider where your thoughts are mostly focused... in the past... in the future... or in the present.

On Saturday nights... I usually like to watch "The Pretender"... but last night there was a baseball game on instead... so we turned to a different channel... and found "Early Edition." Have any of you watched "Early Edition?" It is certainly an interesting premise for a TV program! The young man who is the star of this show is living constantly in the future... because every morning he receives the next day's news paper. That means he knows what is going to happen that day before it has happened... and it has become his responsibility to prevent some of the terrible things that he sees reported in the newspaper. Needless to say... this becomes a huge responsibility... and every week we get to watch him struggle to carry out this unnatural responsibility. And... I might add... that each week we can be reminded how blessed we are that we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. We only have today... this very moment in which to live.

But many of us are guilty of living in the future... instead of the present... for one reason or another. Usually it's because we are not too happy with what is going on in the present. Right now some of you may be anticipating the Saints ball game this afternoon... wondering whether they are going to beat the 49'ers! Or maybe there is something else you are looking forward to doing this afternoon... after church is over. Actually I'd say that most of you appear to be right here with me this morning... that's good... because that's the way it's suppose to be.

As we read this letter from Jeremiah to the 10,000 Israelites who were exiles in Babylon... we can understand their position, can't we? Wanting to go home... hoping against hope that it would be soon... unwilling to plant tomatoes because they weren't sure they'd be there for the harvest. (That's an inside joke between me and my husband!)

Actually living in Babylon was not such a bad deal... the Babylonians were exceptionally civil to their prisoners of war! Obviously... if they were free to follow Jeremiah's advice... they must have had considerable freedom as prisoners. We know from archeologists that the Babylonians recognized three classes of citizens... freemen of the upper class... freemen of the lower class... and slaves. Evidently the captured Israelites were consider freemen of the lower class... that is, without influence. Their condition was not abominable... but still they hoped for an early return home... back to Palestine... to Jerusalem.

Apparently a prophet in their midst was telling them that the Lord would allow them to return home very soon... and... later in this chapter... Jeremiah has something to say about false prophets... and the length of their stay. In fact... Jeremiah tells them that they will live in Babylon for 70 years... and they are to have hope for the future... but they are to live in the here and now!

God's message to them was to settle down... and live their lives as Jews... in this foreign land... among these foreign people. Build houses... plant gardens... marry their sons and daughters to one another... and increase in number. Also... God instructs them to seek the peace and prosperity of their enemies... pray for them... because if the enemy prospers... so will they!

I think... this morning... that we can identify with these Israelites. We, ourselves... as Christians... live in a world that is not our true home... in a culture that is often hostile to our way of life... with a hope for God's kingdom to come... sometime in the future. I wonder... have we prayed for our world?... our culture?... our hope for the future? Have we thought seriously about the situation in which we find ourselves? Have we used our situation to God's advantage? Have we allowed God to direct how are lives are to be lived? Are we truly living in the present?... or are we more concerned about preserving... or regaining the past? Or maybe we are just biding time... waiting for the Kingdom... focusing narrowly on the future. Is this what God wants?

You know... I've thought about this business of living in the here and now... and I think it is extremely important for several reasons.

First of all... living in the here and now facilitates God's future. What God says in this passage to the Israelites is true for us today as well. We ought to be about God's business... the business of living our lives... contributing to this culture by encouraging enterprise... investing our initiative and our income... using our unique talents... praying for peace and prosperity...and... certainly not the least... sharing our story... and increasing in number.

Most of these are activities we are involved in every day... and that is as it should be. Our own lives are deeply enmeshed in the life of this culture... and as it prospers... so shall we. It is right and good that we live in this world but at the same time... we must remember that we are not of this world. We do have a story to tell the world... and if we did that effectively and faithfully... I believe that our numbers would increase... and God's Kingdom would be more evident in this world... for God is present... and working through us... in the here and now.

Secondly... living in the here and now facilitates our fellowship. Today... in this hour we are together... worshiping our God... and enjoying fellowship. If your mind is elsewhere... think of what you have missed! How does it feel when you want to share with someone... but you know they are anxious to be somewhere else? Have you absentmindedly listened to a friend... and then realize as they finished their story that you hadn't been listening? Those of you in Evelyn's class... doesn't it feel good to have someone listen... to have someone present with you in the here and now as you share?

Living in the here and now is something we need to do for one another... it's a necessary element in spiritual growth... to have someone present with you... listening... receiving... accepting! Our spiritual growth will increase rapidly as we each learn to live in the here and now... without the distractions of the past... how it used to be... or the future... how it is going to be. I encourage each of you to be where you are at any given time... give each encounter your full attention... for God is present... and blessing us... in the here and now.

Finally, living in the here and now facilitates God's forgiveness. Forgiveness means having a second chance to do something different in the next moment... and that requires living in the here and now! I wonder what our life would be like if we realized in each moment whether we had done God's will... or not... and acted on that in the next moment. Wouldn't it be much easier if we apologized for an unkind remark immediately after having said it?... or asked forgiveness when our mind has wondered... and then listened more attentively?... or rectified some thoughtless act the moment after we did it?... or reconsidered a dishonest act... and undid it immediately to the best of our ability... for God is present... and forgiving us... in the here and now.

Living in the here and now... it's a major challenge for all of us... one that God calls us to. How are we doing? Amen.

A Sermon Preached on October 11, 1998
The Rev. Shirley R. Frazier
Carolyn Park Presbyterian Church, Arabi, LA

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