“A the threshold of the new day stands The Lord who made it. Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to Him to whom our whole life belongs.”
The quote above was shared in the sermon at our church this past Sunday. It comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who spoke gospel truth during the dark times of World War II.
This quote doesn’t deal with the great ethical questions of war, but it does deal with something important nonetheless – the question of how we start our day.
What does your morning routine look like? Most of us have an established pattern first thing in the day which has developed as a habit over many years. Get up, shower, clean teeth, make coffee. Perhaps time with God in prayer? Maybe switching on our phone to see the news and any notifications that have arrived overnight.
Bonhoeffer’s challenge is to meet each day as a gift from God, and so to meet each day with God. That will look different for each one of us depending on our work situation, family circumstances, responsibilities and so on. But the challenge is a real one. Will we let our voice be silenced at the start of the day? Will we let God have the first word and the first thought instead? I know I find it too easy to begin the day with reading the news and letting the voices and opinions of so many others flood into my mind. I need to let God dictate the agenda and pace of my day, rather than the voices of the internet!
Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in the US commends a particular practice to help with this. He recommends having a Bible open by your bed and then each morning picking it up and reading it as the very first act of the day. Read until God makes a verse stand out to you and then stop. Take that word from the Lord into the coming day. When it comes to sleep, do the same. Let the Bible be the last thing you read and think about, stopping when God puts a verse on your heart and taking that into your sleep.
That’s a great practice to try, and there are many others that could be mentioned to help us receive each day as a gift from God.
It strikes me that there is another way in which Bonhoeffer’s words hit home for us in our current situation. We have been limited about what we can do as a church because of the global Covid pandemic over the last year and a half. That is beginning to change and, here in the UK, we face the possibility in just a couple of weeks of being able to meet in larger groups, to socialise with one another and to sing and praise God as a congregation.
It is exciting to anticipate doing these things again as a church. It is as if we stand at the beginning of a new day, the sun is rising and dawn is breaking on a new chapter of church life. But there is a danger that we run into these new opportunities and forget that they are a gift from God.
We need to heed Bonhoeffer’s warning as we enter this new stage of Covid life. As we look forward to embracing lifted restrictions, we need to start with silence and let the first word and first thought belong to God. May he direct our steps as a church just as a he does for each one of us day by day.