The sacrament of the present moment

By Dave Henning / September 17, 2018

Officer Charles (“Chuckie”) Irvine Jr. End of watch: Thursday, June 7, 2018.

“The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams, but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. . . .  To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith.”- Jean Pierre de Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment

“When you were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive in Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”- Colossians 2:13-14 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”- John 14:6 (Chuckie’s self-selected confirmation verse)

I awoke around 1 AM the morning of June 8, 2018, to find a prayer request on my smart phone. The post requested prayer for the family of Charles Irvine Jr.  “Oh no,” I cried, “not Chuckie!”  Visibly distraught, I soon discovered that Officer Irvine died in the line of duty after a high-speed pursuit on Milwaukee’s northwest side the previous afternoon.  Amidst the devastating darkness, though, an endearing image of Chuckie emerged.

After Chuckie’s year in our fourth grade community, his father died.  As a fifth grader the next school year, Chuckie often stopped in my classroom during his morning break.  While I taught a lesson, Chuckie quietly walked in and stood right next to me- I always kept my door open.  Next, I’d pause the lesson, put my arm around him and say, “Hey Chuckie, how are you doing?”  When Chuckie felt comfort in the present moment, he returned to class.  Chuckie – small in stature, but big in heart.

In God Is Closer Than You Think, John Ortberg affirms his belief that right now constitutes the greatest moment of your life.  That’s not to imply you find the present moment happy, pleasant, or easy.  Rather, right now is the only moment you’ve got.  Most noteworthy, it’s God’s irreplaceable gift to you.  This moment matters because God is present. To walk with God, you must experience His presence now – in this moment.

Therefore, John asserts, tomorrow represents possibly the most dangerous word in the English language.  As a result, Pastor Ortberg explains how to address the root of the problem:

“What matters most is this: God is present in this instant, offering to partner with us in whatever we face.  The failure to embrace ‘the sacrament of the present moment’ will keep us from being fully present to God right here, right now.  Not because we consciously say no to God.  We just say ‘Tomorrow.’ ”

Furthermore, John observes, spending the day with God usually looks no different than what you already do.  However, to receive each moment as a sacrament, what John calls a God-charged sliver of grace, involves learning to do what we already do in a new way – with God!

Thus, Pastor Ortberg finds it helpful to “review the dailies” with God.  Discover things to thank God for in each scene of your day.  When you do, you’ll find, as Chuckie did, little rainbow moments in ordinary days.  Hence, what Chuckie now proclaims in heaven, we sing on earth:

“Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free/ Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me/ You have broken every chain/ There’s salvation in Your name/ Jesus Christ, my living hope.”

About the author

Dave Henning

  • Rev. Dr. Ralph Wetzel, Veterans Affairs Chaplain (Ret) says:

    Well done, you good and faithful servant! Thank you for your service! Rest in the peace of the Lord!

  • Miriam Watley says:

    So glad to meet Chuckie. Bless his soul.
    As life gets physically more difficult I’m seeing God in countless things every day (sometimes night). He sends me more epiphanies and never ending beauty. When one’s faith is strong, this is the ultimate gift. Thank you Dave.


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