One Day at a Time
Today in the church calendar, we remember Augustine of Canterbury (not to be confused with the Fifth Century bishop with the same name, Augustine of Hippo). Augustine of Canterbury is especially significant for Episcopalians because he is credited with helping spread Christianity in Britain
the birthplace of the Anglican Church.
In 596, at the behest of Pope Gregory I, Augustine embarked
along with 40 monks on an expedition to bring the Gospel to Britain. However, Augustine’s mission wasn’t an overnight success. In fact, he suffered a setback. While on his way to England, stories about the brutality of the Angles and Saxons frightened him so much that he got cold feet and turned back. He returned to Rome frustrated and ashamed.
In the midst of his despair, Pope Gregory lovingly encouraged the young monk, telling him, “He who would climb a lofty height must go by steps, not by leaps.” Gregory’s comforting wisdom resonated with Augustine and strengthened his resolve. Before long, Augustine set off again. In 597, he crossed the English Channel. From there God began to work mightily through his missionary work. In his first year alone, he baptized 10,000 people. So widespread was his success that even King Ethelbert was converted, becoming the first Christian king in England. Yet Augustine’s ministry was short-lived; on May 26, 604, Augustine died. His mission to Britain lasted only seven years.
There is much to learn from Augustine: his perseverance, his teachability and his impact, by the grace of God! However, I find his humanity most noteworthy. There is something about him that is refreshingly authentic. His struggles are real and make him highly relatable.
Like Augustine, we might be prone to think we are incapable of achieving “lofty heights.” Yet, let us not forget Gregory’s sage-like advice that great accomplishments don’t come by leaps, but “by steps.” Spiritual maturity doesn’t happen overnight. To use a metaphor from nature, growth in Christ springs up more like an oak tree than a mushroom. Results aren’t immediate. They’re found in living “one day at a time,” as Reinhold Niebuhr suggested in his well-known Serenity Prayer. Jesus taught something similar when he said,
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow…”
Taking things one day at a time is more than a popular aphorism. It opens up the possibility for us to repent of yesterday’s failings and to reorient our hearts toward a better future. And the good news is that every time the sun rises in morning, God offers us the grace of new day
a day that begins with freshness, possibility, and hope.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
The Rev. Alex D. Graham III
Associate for Children and Family Ministries