Here and Now: At Hand

Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).  It was another way of describing here-and-now living.  But the words “at hand” provide us with two additional insights about living in the present moment.

First, life is near.  For some reason, we can come to think it is somewhere else, somewhere later–when we are different, when our circumstances are different, etc. But life shrivels when we think it is elsewhere.  The major religions of the world all teach that the present moment is sufficient.  From it we can receive what we need to be alive to God, to others, and to ourselves.  We do not have to postpone abundant living.  Jesus’ words place the Christian life in this same view.

The nearness of life enables us to concentrate on the present moment, allowing it to nourish us, and making it an occasion to do good to others.  Compassion is born when life is “at hand.”  The invitation to live in the present moment takes us out of ourselves and motivates us to serve others for the sake of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:5).  The Kingdom is near, and we are to live in the world in Jesus’ name.

Second, life is ordinary.  For some reason, we can come to believe it is only when we experience something “big,” something out-of-the-ordinary, something spectacular.  Interestingly, Henri Nouwen viewed such occasions as the antithesis of abundant living–the way Satan tempted Jesus to trade in his God-given life for a knock-off version. [1]  But he did not fall for it, and neither must we.  When Jesus used the words “at hand,” he made everyday living holy.

Similarly, Brother Lawrence counseled us to practice the presence of God in our routine activities.  He said that picking up a stick out of the road so another person would not trip and fall is as holy as receiving holy communion. [2] This kind of spirituality recalibrates the way we look at life, and live it.  It gives us to see God present and active in everyone and everything.

It is when we embrace “ordinary holiness” that we can receive and give joy in the most simple and regular things.  Gratitude is born when life is “at hand.”  

[1] Henri Nouwen, ‘In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Lesdership (Crossroad, 1989).

[2] Brother Lawrence, ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ (c. 1640).  It remains in print in traditional and ebook formats.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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