Go-To Quote

Post Author: Renee Roederer

I have a go-to quote.

Many pastors do. We have trusted companions that travel alongside us and provide meaning, repeatedly, in a variety of situations. Go-to quotes, rehashed sermon illustrations (spoken in different contexts, of course), and our best life stories are often guides that keep on giving right when we need to say something powerful. Often, they deserve repeating.

I am grateful for my go-to quote, written by one of the most excellent authors I’ve encountered. Thank you, Frederick Buechner, for this gem:

In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.”[1]

This go-to quote is storied. I cannot speak it, write it, or hear it without transporting my imagination to a host of “todays” from the past that were indeed completely precious.

I heard this quote for the first time when it framed the sermon at my ordination service. As it was spoken aloud, I felt instantly connected to a number of communities across the past who had affirmed me into that sacred today, and I knew that the ones present in the sanctuary were blessing me into a sacred future. Time was a transcendent experience.

I have voiced this quote in the presence of couples standing before one another at weddings, people with particular names and shared hopes, knowing that this day is framing much of what will come for them. It isn’t that their wedding day is the most important of all. But it is a moment in which two people are pledging to walk through a host of todays together. Time is a transcendent experience.

Such events are monumental and memorable, and yet, each moment has this sense of both-worlds. Each is connected to the rest, and we are connected to the God who connects us to each other across time. The mundane moments of doing the dishes, stepping outside to get the mail, feeling the warm sunshine on our back, enjoying the aroma of coffee, and tripping over the splattered toys of our beloved children are instances in which we can wake up to the reality that our lives are present in ways that are precious. We are moving along all of these moments to and through sacred todays. As we do so, time will continue to be a transcendent experience.

We are not always awake in this way, but perhaps we would not be able to take it all in.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

But what if we allowed ourselves to glimpse at all that has come before and all that will proceed? If were aware of how precious it is, we could hardly live through it. Unless we are aware of how precious it is, we can hardly be said to be living at all.

[1] Frederick Buechner, Beyond Words.

Renee Roederer is the Campus Minister at First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she lives with her astronomer husband, Ian.  Renee loves hanging out with students, walking around town (especially when it isn't uber-frigid) and watching Youtube videos of baby elephants. Because, you know, they are seriously the cutest.

Image by: Mihee Kim Kort
Used with permission
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