Carpe Diem

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21
Title: “Carpe Diem”
Preached: 6/4/17

It is an exciting time for our graduates.  As we look back and celebrate their achievements, we are reminded of how different the world is today than when we graduated High School.  Change is inevitable, but it is the speed of change that seems to catch many of us off guard.  We could not have imagined the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, the attacks of 9/11, the internet, the IPhone, Google, climate change, and the list goes on and on.  Our graduates grew up in a very different world than our childhood, a life of terror threats and attacks, job ambiguity, college debt, and globalization, these are the new reality. I wish I could tell you what to expect in your life, but I, nor anyone else, can foretell what the future holds for you.

Humanity has long realized the uncertainty of the future.  Approximately 20 years before the birth of Christ, the Roman poet Horace coined the phrase “Carpe Diem”, which is often translated “Seize the Day”.

Ask not (’tis forbidden knowledge), what our destined term of years,
Mine and yours; nor scan the tables of your Babylonish seers.
Better far to bear the future, my Leuconoe, like the past,
Whether Jove has many winters yet to give, or this our last;
This, that makes the Tyrrhene billows spend their strength against the shore.
Strain your wine and prove your wisdom; life is short; should hope be more?
In the moment of our talking, envious time has ebb’d away.
Seize the present; trust tomorrow e’en as little as you may.[3]

“The ode says that the future is unforeseen and that one should not leave to chance future happenings, but rather one should do all one can today to make one’s future better…   The meaning of ‘carpe diem’ as used by Horace is not to ignore the future, but rather not to trust that everything is going to fall into place for you and taking action for the future today.” (Wikipedia, “Carpe Diem”)

We sometimes hear that we should live life as if it was our last day on earth.  In a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, billionaire Steve Jobs gave the following advice to the college graduates, “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And when the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Steve Jobs was an original.  He built a lucrative career on being an innovator.  Many have said that he has changed the world, but as laudable as his accomplishments were, Steve Jobs had his flaws.  It was said that none of his employees wanted to ride an elevator with him because he was known to instantaneously fire employees for not giving an adequate answer.  Steve Jobs struggled with close relationships often isolating himself from those who cared about him.  And, also, Steve Jobs was not a Christian. He did not know or live the love of Christ and so I believe that his advice to these graduates was sincere because for Steve Jobs, seizing the moment because it was your possibly your last was his reality.  To Steve Jobs, every day was potentially his last day.

Let us compare this understanding to the experience of the disciples on Pentecost.  Gathered together in a room, the disciples awaited the one promised by Jesus Christ, an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would come to their aid.  Suddenly there was a great wind which shook the whole house and tongues of fire descended upon each of them.  Seized with the Holy Spirit, the disciples rushed out into the street where Jews from all over the Roman world had gathered for the Festival of Booths:  Parthians, Greeks, Romans, Cappadocians, Jews from every corner of the known world.  On that day, the disciples began sharing the good news of Jesus telling others what they had witnessed.  Each hearing the disciples speaking in their own language.  It was a miracle.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, these disciples were sent out to seize the moment and because of that moment, the Church began.  And the good news spread.  These disciples took the message of Christ, the good news of God, of his great love and grace, across the world.  Eventually, it infiltrated every nook and cranny of the Roman world.  It changed the hearts of poor and rich, kings and emperors, and generations to come. In two thousand years, it has become the largest faith in the world, practiced by billions of people in various languages and cultures across the world and all of it can be traced back to that day, two thousand years ago, on Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus had risen from the grave.  All of it because by the power of the Holy Spirit, this simple group of disciples seized the moment.

Life was uncertain for these disciples just as it is for us today.  They didn’t have a plan laid out before them.  None of them had attended college or higher learning.  In fact, many of them left their learned trades for this new adventure of following Christ.  They did not know what the future would hold, but that did not stop them.  They had the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  They had experienced the truth of the resurrection.  They had accepted Christ into their hearts; and they were witnesses to the joy and power of grace.  And by the power of the Holy Spirit, they seized the moment before them, not as if it was their last day, but as if it was their first.

Remember your first day of Kindergarten.  Remember your first car, your first kiss, the first time you gazed into your child’s eyes, the first day you hit a baseball, rode a bike, or graduated from High School.  Remember that feeling, like you could conquer the world, the newness of life was wet upon your lips, and you could taste its sweetness.  Life was full of potential.  That is the life which Christ calls us into.  That is power of the Holy Spirit to seize the moment as if it is our first day for every day we walk with Christ, we walk into eternity.

As the renowned Jewish scholar Abraham Heschel reminds us, time is sacred.  We often describe it as fleeting, as something which passes by too quickly.  However, it is the material world which passes by. Time remains constant.  We pass through life as if on a train looking at the world, events pass by, but it isn’t time which ends, it is the objects we place in our life before God, like money, power, achievement, health, these are fleeting.  Things pass away, but life in Christ is eternal.  Each of us is called by Christ to walk into eternity; and in eternity with God, every day is a new day.  Every day is a day of creation.  Every day is Christmas.  Every day is Good Friday.  Every day is Easter.  Every day is Pentecost.  Every day we are called to carry our cross and sacrifice as Christ sacrificed for us.  Every day we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Every day we are called to live life as if it were our first day because when we walk with Christ, we walk into a world full of potential, a world of creation, and possibility.  We walk with a Lord who created us to be co-creators in life, to walk with Him into the future and with him, change the world.

Friends, what would have happened if the disciples hadn’t seized the moment on that Pentecost Sunday two thousand years ago?  What would have happened if they hadn’t gotten up, filled with the Holy Spirit, and walked out of that room?  What would have happened if they hadn’t shared the good news of Jesus to those strangers speaking languages none of them knew?  What would have happened?  Nothing.  Nothing would have happened and we probably wouldn’t be here today.  It is not good enough to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  It is not good enough to know the love of God.  It is not good enough to sit in our pews and listen to a sermon. It is not good enough to take in the Lord if we are unwilling to share the Lord with others.

Seize the moment, this moment, and share the good news of God that you have been given.  Not as if it is your last, but as if it is your first.  Take that good news out to a world that so desperately needs to hear it and share it with the world.  Share it by helping someone on your block who is in need of your support.  Share it by telling someone that you will be praying to Jesus for them.  Share it by running a marathon with a t-shirt that says, “Thank you Jesus.”  Share it by singing a song in an unfamiliar church or playing an instrument.  Share it reading a Bible story to your children.  Share it working at a food pantry or visiting a homebound member, working at the DAR, or inviting a neighbor to church.  Whichever or however you are led to share the Lord, but don’t do nothing because nothing won’t change the world.

Graduates, young and old, you are walking into an uncertain world.  The only thing certain in this world is that God loves you, so much that he was willing to live and die for you and in that love and by the power of the Holy Spirit, he is calling you out into this world.  By the love of God and the sacrifice of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, breathe in the Holy Spirit.  Experience the newness of life with him.  Don’t let life pass you by, but in Christ, live out “Carpe Diem”, seize the moment, this moment and every moment as if it is your first.  In Christ, step out into eternity and step into your new life.  You have worked so hard and we are proud of you and your accomplishments.  You share in our future together and we can’t wait to seize the day with you. For this is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Amen.