IF NOT YOU, WHO?
It’s not entirely clear whether it was Ronald Reagan or a first century Jewish rabbi, but no matter who said it first, a certain phrase has since become an important reminder that when something needs to be done, before we look elsewhere we should ask: If not you, who? If not now, when?
Reagan repeatedly used the phrase back in 1980 to encourage a move toward getting the US federal budget back into balance. As important as that was (and it’s gotten much worse!), we know there are much more important, even eternity-determining choices that we face each and every day. We make choices each day that have an effect on how those days work out, but we also make decisions that direct us either toward the Kingdom of Heaven or away from it. And the only person whose choices can determine our lives is us, and the only moment within our control is now. Not only do we need prayer, but the entire world is in need of fervent supplication to our good and loving God. In our lives of great abundance, we need the discipline of fasting to keep our appetites in check. And in a world with so much need, we are easily tempted to either ignore everyone and everything, or we are tempted to despair of our inability to offer any real help, both of which can lead us to do nothing. We combat these opposing temptations by simply doing what we can. If not you, who? If not now, when?
As we enter into the New Ecclesiastical (Church) Year which began this past Sunday, we are reminded of the newness of life that Christ constantly offers us. Everything God does for us allows us to choose freely to accept the abundant life He offers us, here and now. Sometimes we are often tempted to consider the opportunities He sends us as somebody else’s. Sometimes the temptation is to see those opportunities as ours but for a different time. Both of these rob us of God’s immediate presence and direction in our lives. If not you, who? If not now, when?
To be sure, there are many questions that come to us where the answer to “if not you, who?” really is NOT us. Or “if not now, when?” really should be another time. but when that is the case, we should have good reasons for those answers not being “me,” and “now.” And none of those reasons are ever simply because it would just be easier that way. We make too many bad decisions in our lives when we imagine the important questions to be: “Since it’s NOT me, who?” and “since I WON’T do it now, when?” A phrase that I learned recently that I have been using a lot, both for myself and with others, is this: “the present is a gift.” We should carefully and prayerfully consider both the talents God has given to each of us, and the ways put before us to use those talents to bring us and others closer to His Kingdom. Is there anything more important we do with our time? If not you, who? If not now, when?
This coming Sunday, our Parish will hold its annual “Ministry Fair,” when we will encourage each member of our community to prayerfully consider the vital ministries of the Church on the one hand and our own particular giftedness on the other, and to offer our time and skill where those two intersect. For far too long and by far too many of us, we have seen the church only as a place we go to get, whether what we get is peace, friendship, or meaning. While we thankfully get those and countless other blessings from the Church, more properly the Church is not where we go to get, but where we go to give. It’s where we give a portion of all that God has given to us as an expression of our loving response to His love and where we become a blessing both to the fellow members of the Body of Christ and to the world to which we have been sent to be a blessing. If not you, who? If not now, when?My prayer is that each of our parishioners will come to church this Sunday with these two questions on their hearts. As we learn about the many ways our parish coordinates the offering of our gifts in the Church’s ministry, we should consider the many opportunities that we have been given in order to give and to answer these questions well: If not you, who? If not now, when?