Day by day, as [the believers] spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. -Acts 2:46-47
One of my favorite songs is the hymn, “Day by Day.” No, not the one from the musical Godspell; the one in our hymnal by Lina Sandell Berg. I don’t know if she had the above verses from Acts in mind as she wrote,
Day by day, I know you will provide me
strength to serve and wisdom to obey;
I will seek your loving will to guide me
o’er the paths I struggle day by day.
I will fear no evil of the morrow,
I will trust in your enduring grace.
Savior, help me bear life’s pain and sorrow
till in glory I behold your face.
I do know, though, that she wrote those words after witnessing her father’s death by drowning while they were on a boat trip together. Lina, the child of a Lutheran pastor, knew quite a bit about living life day by day. As a small child, she was frail and often confined to her bed. As a teen, she experienced a dramatic recovery that she attributed to God’s divine healing, and began writing spiritual poetry and hymns. Her father died when she was 26, and she wrote the hymn Day by Day in response.
If you’ve experienced a tragedy like Lina’s, you know that the only way to get from that devastating loss to a place of peace is one day at a time. For that matter, any change from terrible to better is a day by day kind of thing, one day after another.
Come to think of it, change from okay to excellent is also a day by day sort of thing. Often, when it comes to improving ourselves or our community, workplace, congregation, school, or world, we look for an instant solution that will make it all better right away. We imagine that if we pick the right leader, read the right book, or follow the right fad, everything will suddenly become perfect. But that’s not really how it works.
Working toward change is a day by day sort of thing. In Acts, we read that the first Christians worshiped, learned, prayed, and spent time together day by day. And that God, too, acted day by day to add to the church. When we want to nurture ourselves or the groups we’re part of, it takes a long-term commitment, not a magic spell.
God call us to a day by day discipleship. Every day, we have the opportunity to trust God, to love our neighbors, to act for justice and peace, to pray for healing and wholeness, to be diligent in Christian learning, to build up the body of Christ. That’s the call of our baptisms. Day by day, as we follow God’s call, God keeps the promises to sustain and nourish us, so that we can face the next day, and the next, until on our last day we are gathered to God like a lamb to its shepherd. Until then, we live day by day.