This past weekend I attended the annual celebration banquet of a Bible class, the longest standing tradition of a 100-plus-year-old manufacturing company headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. Yes, odd as it may seem today, a YMCA branch hosted by the company organized the class in 1916 for employees who wanted to improve their reading and writing skills, and the Bible was used as the reading text. No longer a literacy class, the group has long since evolved into a Bible study fellowship.
Delivering the message for this 96th anniversary celebration was Pastor Cedric Sparks of 45th Street Baptist Church. What he said spoke to me because it challenged the usual assumptions of what makes a person successful in life. It’s not about position, or power, or amassing material possessions, or even “living the good life.” It’s about what you do with the grace God gives you to live your life. He closed with a poem by Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays (1894-1984). I took it as a challenge to pause and think about what really matters in the short space of time between life and death:
I’ve only just a minute,
Only sixty seconds in it.
Forced upon me, can’t refuse it,
Didn’t seek it, didn’t choose it,
But it’s up to me to use it.
I must suffer if I lose it,
Give an account if I abuse it,
Just a tiny little minute,
But eternity is in it.