It’s been a long time, but I remember a story that was required reading when I was in school. It was called “Our Town,” written as a three-act play by Thornton Wilder.
In the play, Wilder’s macabre third and final scene depicts a graveyard atop a hill overlooking the town where the dead are seated watching as the living go about their daily tasks. One resident of the cemetery remarks, “My, wasn’t life awful – and wonderful!” One recent arrival to the cemetery is Emily, a young woman who died in childbirth. She begs to be allowed to relive just one day of her life. Grudgingly, the request is granted. She decides to re-experience her twelfth birthday. At first she is thrilled with the gaiety of the party. But then something happens that changes everything. An irrefutable truth is discovered.
What got me thinking about this play was simple enough. I was at church Sunday preparing for our first service. It was a wonderfully calm, quiet, and cool morning. This moment of reverie was broken by the tolling of the church bell announcing the eight-thirty service. The Ripon Free Methodist Church was originally built by the United Brethren Church in 1878. Just as it has been done for the past one hundred and thirty years, we ring the church bell prior to each service. The thirty-five foot rope hangs from the rafters in the belfry where it waits for a pair of strong hands each Sunday to grab it firmly, yet lovingly, to perform its duties in calling saints and sinners to services.
In my nearly nine years serving as the senior pastor of the church, I have often encountered folks in the community who comment on how much they enjoy hearing the bell toll across our town. Whether they attend church or not, the peal of the bell elicits a flood of comfortable memories for them. The bell’s solid tone reverberates down the sleepy streets of our town, conveying a tone of assurance that all is well. It is akin to sitting down with an old friend over a cup of coffee.
The comfortableness of our town is perhaps best experienced by taking a casual stroll down Main Street. The part of Main Street I’m referring to includes my church. It is the section of town that will be called “Old Town” some day. You’ll see a sign on the freeway that says, “Exit Old Town Ripon.” It’s not there yet, so don’t go looking for the sign.
It’s in this part of town that you will find several eating establishments. I’m partial to Mexican food, and we have one of the best anywhere. There is, of course, the customary barbershop (two, in fact), along with a gun shop, a couple of real estate offices, ditto on nail salons and coffee shops, a tire shop, two auto parts stores, a library, a couple of doctor’s offices, a flower shop, a gym, the town newspaper, a book store, two banks, and several churches. You can walk into any of these establishments and feel right at home. These are your friends, your neighbors. It’s a comfortable place.
Now, back to Emily and the irrefutable truth she discovered in “Our Town.” After the joy of her birthday party, she quickly realizes that she took so many things for granted while she was alive, and how quickly life speeds by. She says, "We don't even have time to look at one another!" Then she asks, "Doesn't anyone ever realize life while they live it? Every, every minute?" The response? "No. Saints and poets, maybe; they do some."
One friend in town, who is retired from the Army, has as part of his e-mail signature, “Enjoying Every Breath.”
Let me ask you – How are you living your life? Are you enjoying the “every, every minute?” Are you “enjoying every breath?”
Your life is a gift from God. Jesus said you are to love God, and love others. When you do that, you’re really living!
So enjoy all of your today's.