top of page
  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

More Sam, less Thomas. How to carpe diem

As she cycled past his garage, Sam was bowled over.  He had just a few seconds to decide whether to react.  He did – and a new future came into being.


I’m taking quite a few funerals nowadays to support hard-pressed colleagues – and each funeral tells its own story of a life lived and how relationships come to pass. 


I took Sam’s this week and from his granddaughter’s tribute heard how he had met his wife.  A country lad, on leaving school he took a job at the local garage. One lunchtime he was just standing outside when Dot - not known to Sam -  cycled past, some distance from where she lived.


It’s one of those decisions to be made in moments.  Think for more than five seconds – and she’s out of sight.  However, Sam decided to carpe diem. And today there are some four children and 15 grandchildren and great-grandchildren who owe this existence to his chutzpah


This the total opposite of the outcome of Faintheart in a Railway Train, a short poem by the Victorian writer, Thomas Hardy, the eternal pessimist.   His train stops at a station, “And then, on a platform, she:


“A radiant stranger, who saw not me.

I queried, "Get out to her do I dare?"

But I kept my seat in my search for a plea,

And the wheels moved on. O could it but be

That I had alighted there!”


Now and again we are faced with a huge decision, one where there is little time to ponder before the wheels move on.  In Sam’s case, a few seconds.  The alternative may well be with Hardy a lifetime of regret, of looking back with the question “What if’?”


I was reading about such a decision this morning, as I work my way through Luke’s Gospel with BRF Guidelines.  Like Hardy, Luke’s brevity and directness evoke a sense of immediacy and realism.


“After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:27)


That's it. We’re given no back story.  All we know is that Levi was a professional extortionist, a tax collector working for the Romans.  Just to confuse us Matthew in his Gospel names this same tax-collector as Matthew, presumably writing about himself. 


But the way the story is related it would seem that Jesus calls Levi just-like-that.  One moment he is at his desk doing his sums, next minute he is on the road with Jesus. 


We are given the impression that Jesus does not give him time to sleep on it or take advice from family and friend.  Simply: “Follow me!”


In his Gospel, Luke often gives us pairs. A good example is how Jesus gives two parables to explain what it means to decide to follow him, and to get the whole picture we need to take them together. 


The first is when we decide on a building project.  “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). 

This decision needs careful and precise costing, for the simple reason is that a tower will only work if it is finished.  All this takes time and extensive consultation – and this cannot be hurried.


Then the second parable gives the other side of the balance.   “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? (Luke 14:31). 


Military doctrine advises three times as many soldiers as those defending are needed for a successful assault.  Here the ratio is two to one.  It’s a difficult decision, carefully balanced - but one which needs to be taken quickly, immediately.  No messing around. 


So to decide to follow Jesus is both instant and considered.  The chances are that Levi/Matthew had been mulling over his future for a while, not least as he heard reports of Jesus who had a track-record of welcoming the outcasts.  No doubt God had been gently prodding him, cultivating a sense of dissatisfaction and longing.  And then Jesus shows up with his urgent summons.


As disciples of Jesus we need to be geared up for that instant decision, to have the confidence to respond with just a moment’s notice.  Secure in our relationship with him, we do not fear failure which can so easily paralyse us.


Going back to Sam and the girl on the bike, all he was risking was a gentle rebuff; he was taking the equivalent of a one-way bet.  But there again, we all fear losing face, of being made to look foolish.


But that’s life as a disciple of Jesus.  Secure in our relationship with him, we do not fear rebuff or ridicule.  And as such we are always on-call, ready to respond with a moment’s notice. 


More Sam, less Thomas. 


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page