Sometimes we get the impression that being around Jesus, or being the people of God for that matter, is a life of going from miracle to miracle—one extraordinary moment linked to another. Of course, if the Bible had chronicled all the dusty miles of walking, all the hours of confusing discussion, all the occurrences of normalness—it would have been tens of thousands of pages long, and no one would have wanted to read it. Imagine an entire Bible of the stuff in Leviticus or endless chapters of “begats.”
But because we distill out the ordinariness of life, the daily slog, our lives seem so different from the disciples of old. Especially now, when many of us are confined to inside worlds, when all the outside distractions of modern life are shut down, when we feel the dailyness, the ordinariness, the mundaneness pressing down on us. And yet …
Every once in a while, we are reminded that those early disciples too were human. They too had to sleep, had to eat (normal meals not the Last Supper), had to figure out life in a new world, had to keep on, keeping on. And one of these reminders comes in our Scripture for today, Acts 2:42-47.
Now we are in the Lukan world—a world where Jesus has risen, has appeared not just to the chosen few but also to two ordinary disciples on the road to Emmaus, has hung around for 40 days, ascended to heaven, and just recently the Holy Spirit has dropped in on the assembly of the faithful at the festival of Pentecost.
But now all those followers were getting back to their new normal. They didn’t receive the Holy Spirit and immediately scatter to proselytize the world. Nor did they ooze back into the life they had known before Jesus. No, they were new people, but having to live day by day by day.
I know I have preached on this passage before, and have been struck by how simple their lives seemed: listening to and discussing the teachings; being with one another for fellowship; gathering to break bread, and to pray. Sharing what they had—true community. It’s a world that seems eminently possible, something we too could do (on a small scale).
This week as I sat with this passage, though I still marvel at this glimpse into common life as a disciple, the words that jumped out at me were “day by day.” And maybe I’d been primed to hear those words since I’d already picked a communion liturgy for a time of pandemic that uses “day by day by day” as a response. Whatever the reason, the words “day by day” seemed to jump out at me.
Many of us are living “day by day.” In fact, one day melds into another so that we lose track of the days. There is no real point in planning, or putting anything on the calendar since we don’t know when this suspended animation of life is going to end—or better yet, slowly diminish.
This day by day isn’t the peppy Godspell musical song—where we “see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.” No, this day by day is more like one of my favorite Christmas special songs (from ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’) “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking cross the floooooooor. Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.” In other words, this day by day, is hard work, is monotonous, and we fear, has become life for the near future.
Of course, there are those who are sprinting to get back to what we had before (is that even possible?). Of course, there are debates about how and when and what life might be like, can be like, will be like. I’m struck by the parallels with what life must have felt like in the time just after Jesus’ death. In a time when disciples were trying to live into a “new normal.”
There are no flashy, easy to remember stories (unlike the events of Pentecost). There are only a few sentences to chronicle what must have been days upon days upon weeks upon months upon maybe years. We don’t know because the writer of Acts moves from this passage into the exciting stories of Peter and John and Paul. But most of us won’t be Peter or John or Paul. These sentences are about lives like ours, and what people like us do in such times.
It seems simple, and yet profound. Here is what I hear: 1) Make relationships a priority. Those early disciples gathered at temple, gathered to break bread, gathered to pray. Even though we are apart physically does not mean we have to be out of one another’s lives. Find ways of connection.
2) Don’t look at what is lost, but focus on what you have. Those early disciples pooled their resources and those who had much shared with those who were in need. So many of us have so much—shelter and food and family and health. There is great need around us, need for food, need for employment, need for connection, need for respite, need for purpose. Take a look at all your blessings, and find a way to bless others around you.
3) Get on with daily life, but don’t forget to give thanks to God. The early disciples, day by day, went to temple, and broke bread, and ate “with glad and generous hearts, praising God.” It came to my mind that in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, we aren’t schooled to ask for spectacles, or extraordinariness. We are taught to keep our eyes on God’s kingdom, and we are taught to expect God’s presence in our “mundane,” every day experiences—our daily bread, our interactions with one another, the choices we make. Yes, God is most evident to us at Christmas and Easter and Pentecost—but our God has promised to be there day by day by day—in the green meadows as well as in the valley of the shadows—in other words, in the twists and turns, in the ups and downs, in the slow creep or fast rush of our lives.
God is with us day by day by day. That is nothing new. That is God’s normal. May we, like the early disciples, live and rest in this truth, each and every day.
May it be so, Alleluia, Amen.