Both Life and Death Matter
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
“A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” (Carl Sandburg 1878 – 1967)
I’ve always liked this quote even as it disagrees somewhat with the words of scripture which speak of the End Times. It does speak to the hope we often feel when welcoming a new citizen into the world.
This past week, as I was attending a memorial service for a friend, a dear Christian lady who had died at age 92, I received a text announcing the birth of my new great-grandson. In a way, the news of this birth softened the sense of loss I had been feeling. Also, this lady’s death was just one of three such deaths among acquaintances within the past week, four within two weeks. Of course, when most of your friends are seventy and up, you come to anticipate such events.
Nevertheless, the timing of the birth of this child was meaningful as it served to remind me of the nature of life, that we are living a temporary existence while looking ahead to an everlasting life in another and perfected world. This faith we hold onto enables us to make sense of the often difficult and, yes, limited time on this earth, while new life provides a glimpse into what is to come. And by new life, I am speaking not only of the newly born but also those who have come to a new life through the conversion experience of knowing and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
We are reminded in 2nd Corinthians, that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ who has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:17-18)
Earlier, St. Paul also wrote: “And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus.” (2nd Cor 4:13-14)
That we do not have to wait until we die to experience a new life is also attested by St. Paul in these words; “But have you not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:20 – 24)
This speaks to our relationship with our Lord Jesus, but we are not left to our own devices; God has promised to lead us and provide the strength to make the changes necessary to put off the “old man” in us and to embrace the new. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.. I will put My Spirit within you.” (Ezek. 36: 26 – 27a)
To summarize, I return to the words of St. Paul; “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him; -- Likewise you also reckon yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:5-8; 11)
We know that life matters, -- but also, so do our deaths!
Written by Cathy Schrock - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Image: The Cross and the Door, by Daniel Bonnell - https://bonnellart.com/
You were the creator of all things,
having breathed life into existence.
The crowning glory of Your creation,
man was empowered to decide for himself
whether or not to follow Your perfect way.
He chose poorly.
But You were not taken by surprise;
Your plan included this scenario from the beginning.
To fulfill the plan,
You were called to leave behind
eternity, position, and glory,
for time, lowly places, and humanity.
This was no Plan B.
You completed Your mission brilliantly,
holding fast to the master plan.
Never once did You deviate from
or try to change it,
even though You could have.
You were faithful until the bitter end.
But that was just the beginning.
Your work was meant to stand
as a testimony to Father’s undying love,
His determination to find what was lost,
to set free that which was held in chains,
and to light up the darkest places with hope and freedom.
And so it does.
Your work has set a standard
for all of us who will come behind You.
Not only has it set us free,
but it has empowered us to follow Your example,
to choose wisely.
Your work started in eternity,
and it will come to fruition and fulfillment there as well.
Yes and Amen.
Our Revealed King
Written by Dcn. Kelsie Meyers - St. Andrew's - Lewis Center, OH
Revelation is a powerful word. When something is revealed it is made known suddenly with a flair of drama or surprise. Matthew offers us this dramatic revelation at the start of his gospel. After giving us a list of Jesus’ Jewish credentials in his genealogy, and a brief synopsis of the angel’s visit to Mary and Joseph foretelling Jesus’ birth, the first people who meet Jesus are astrologers from the East. They read the signs in the sky and followed the bright star to the Christ child (Matthew 2:1-12). God revealed the truth about Jesus to these outsiders and their response to God’s revelation was appropriately dramatic. They responded with overwhelming joy. This was a joy that could not be contained. In my mind’s eye, I see the Magi whooping and hollering in front of Mary and Joseph’s house, letting out great belly laughs, grabbing and hugging each other at the sight of the star’s light shining on the house. They knew the star had led them to the King they intended to find. Once the Magi entered the house the scene was no less dramatic. They looked at the boy Jesus and immediately recognized his kingship and responded with worship and humility, kneeling before him. This is revelation. These Magi came looking for a King, and they found their King.
After reading the story of the Magi year after year, it is easy to make the three kings a part of our mental nativity alongside the animals, shepherds, and manger. But, Epiphany invites us to receive God’s revelation again. This baby, born into Jewish history, is the Light to the nations, the King over all creation, through whom God’s glory is revealed. The Spirit makes the mysteries of God known to us as He lives in us (1 Corinthians 2:7-12). Our work is to be open to receive the revelation that God wants to give to us. As we meditate on the Magi’s response to Jesus, allow the Spirit to shine his light in your hearts to reveal what is getting in the way of us receiving a deeper revelation of Jesus. Our sorrows, disappointments, attachments, and unforgiveness all become the darkness that God’s light shines into. As Jesus’ Kingship is revealed to us, we can surrender these things to his lordship and be set free.
Jesus’ glory is revealed to us, and it will be revealed through us. As we come to see Jesus more fully, we become the light that points others to him. We are surrounded by seekers, like the Magi, trying to make sense of this life. God wants to reveal Himself to them, and we have a part to play. As the stars of the sky were a map for the Magi, our lives, our witness, our testimony of Jesus freeing work, points seekers to Jesus today. May the Spirit of God breathe on us again and offer us deeper wisdom and revelation of the King we serve. May we be moved to overwhelming joy and humbly join God by offering ourselves to join in his revelatory work in the world.
Anna, a Soliloquy
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