Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16 (NIV)
My Dad told me Friday that he is beginning a 14 day quarantine. His first cousin was hospitalized with COVID-19 on Thursday and is on a ventilator. Dad worked with a relative who was exposed to the virus, so Dad is taking the responsible step to wait it out at home for fourteen days to see if he escaped transmission. He seems okay with staying at home: “Hey, I have three trees I have to cut down and then cut up which will take me three days, then I have garden plots to repair and other jobs to do at home. I have more to do than I’ll get done in two weeks.” This from a man looking to turn 70 years old next month. It looks like he is making the most of the opportunity to stay at home.
Make the most of every opportunity. Yesterday Sandy and I cried. I texted condolences to two former students, brothers whose Dad just passed away from COVID-19. He had been hospitalized and on a ventilator for about a week, but he died yesterday. We have been good friends with his wife, the mother of my two former students, for twenty-plus years. She has definitely been making the most of her opportunities to pray for her husband every day these past decades. Sadly, she and her sons could not be with her husband as he slipped away from them, and sadly, as far as I know he never professed faith in Jesus Christ. I hope his sons, my former students, make the most of this opportunity to give their hearts fully to Jesus today.
Make the most of every opportunity. This passage is on my mind today. The KJV line is perhaps more familiar to “old” Christians. “Redeeming the time.” Use time well. Buy it back. Don’t waste your life. Take full advantage of what’s before you. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. I’ve noticed that a phrase attributed to Rahm Emmanuel “Never let a crisis go to waste” has been said to be traced back to Winston Churchill. Upon further review, I doubt that Churchill said it, but Rahm Emmanuel undoubtedly did say it. Anyone who was decidedly against the politics of President Obama and his then-chief of staff seems to think this is an odious quote to lambast and ridicule. But I say it has huge implications for this season. We are in an existential global crisis that has upended, among other things, our economy, our churches, our government, and our sense of civility. Christ followers have, today, greater opportunities and more open doors to love God and love others than any era in recent memory. Let us not let this crisis go to waste! Let us make the most of every opportunity.
Make the most of every opportunity. In NYC, three young men have traveled in to help distribute lunch boxes to health care workers, and 40 pound boxes of food to churches and persons requesting food assistance. I call them the UFA (Underground Food Agents); they carry a letter with them from “Anabaptist COVID19 Response” that authorizes them to: provide PPE and pre-packaged lunches to health care professionals, provide prepared Hands of Hope food boxes to out-of-work and/or low-income individuals and families, conduct surveys of individuals and facilities involved in the above effort, and coordinate logistics, supplies and transportation to effect the above projects. When these guys leave on April 26, they will self-quarantine at a remote undisclosed location for 14 days. It has been good seeing them serve the NYC community with selfless, compassionate care during this season. If you are interested in donating to the “Anabaptist COVID19 Response” network of Plain Compassion, Kingdom Channels, Blessings of Hope, and other businesses and ministries, the website link is https://www.anabaptistcovidresponse.org/ . There are people making the most of this opportunity! Last night, Sandy took 10 boxes of food to her Muslim friend who asked for 10 boxes. We took a salad out of each box, because the salad had bacon in it. When they opened the boxes in front of their friend, they realized that what they thought were bags of chips were actually pork rinds, so those were taken out as well. We live and learn. I am hoping to get in touch with the Imam at the mosque that’s about seven blocks from our place and see if we can bring them some boxes of food as well.
Make the most of every opportunity. Our friends in Georgia, Gary & Anne Swartzentruber, posted last week that their hospital and surrounding EMS station and nursing homes are facing a crisis of mask shortages. So they were organizing local Georgia neighbors to make masks. They have received masks from Ohio and Pennsylvania and I think from Colorado. This is an example of making the most of every opportunity, and not letting a crisis go to waste.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. Search your heart. Ask God to cleanse you from sin. Confess and renounce sins. If necessary, seek reconciliation with others, and forgiveness from others. We received a private message this week from a friend who is so excited about what God is doing in her daughter, who has pursued reconciliation with a former friend and is moving back towards God. This was exciting news! Take time daily to ask God to show you opportunities to serve. He has been gracious in opening up the windows of heaven with boundless opportunities to love and serve here in NYC. Will you join the Kingdom of God in service to the King wherever you are?
Make the most of every opportunity. This Facebook fast of last week was a good thing. I realized that I was tending towards Phariseeism in the news. I tend to gravitate towards news that gives figures, charts, graphs, doctors reports, and a smattering of main-stream outlets that I more or less believe. Yes, I’ve noticed that the New York Times has sunk to new lows to criticize every response of our current administration. And yes, I’ve seen misinformation from the New York Post. And yes, I’ve hear of that travesty from the one outlet reporting on the NYC crisis that included an “editing error” by adding video from a hospital in Italy. Yes, there is “fake news,” but I tend to more or less discount the shared alternative news with titles like “Deep State Exposed” or “What the Main Stream Media isn’t telling us about COVID-19”. I realized that I have been over-reacting in all of this misinformation and kind of looking down my nose at the conspiracy theorists and alternative news believers. For one thing, I know COVID-19 is real. It is too far-reaching and too global in its effect to be a conspiracy of some evil cabal of sinister maniacs. But I still have a responsibility to extend love and grace to people who think differently than me—especially if they profess to be followers of Jesus.
Sandy’s niece Teresa spoke with a woman outside of Planned Parenthood in NYC in late January and convinced her not to have an abortion that day. Teresa was in and out of touch with L, the woman who was considering saving her baby, and we put L in touch with our friend AnnaMarie Salyer. The communication has been sporadic, but just two days ago Mrs. Salyer got back in contact with L and delivered a box of food to her. She took a picture of this pregnant lady with her food box. It’s one thing for a single woman to decide to keep her baby. It’s another thing entirely if she already has a 12 year old daughter and is supporting her parents as an Uber driver. I was so glad that she at least got a box of food. Now we pray for her spiritual rebirth. So this food distribution reconnected L with our Christians friends, and now our Christian friends want to do a baby shower for the baby that would have been aborted.
Make the most of every opportunity. Christ-followers have joined an upside down Kingdom. Moses was told to put up a bronze serpent so that people could look at it to stop the plague. But they had previously been told not to make a graven image. I don’t get that. Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but took upon himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man. He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross. Such an amazing, upended, God-became-man reality that has changed everything about my life and my future.
This Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the Risen Lord. Let’s make the most of this opportunity. I do mourn the reality that I can’t meet with a gathered assembly to celebrate Resurrection Sunday. I wish I could sing “Lift Your Glad Voices” with other believers. That is a loss. A part of me aches at the loss of gathered fellowship right now. But I thank God that he has me alive for such a time as this! Now, more than ever, the call to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves rings out so loud and clear that I cannot escape it. The message reverberates through this season in undulating, persistent, passionate waves.
Make the most of every opportunity.
Christ is Risen!