Don’t Wait for Death (April 24, 2013)

…Opening To…

For life, with all it yields of joy and woe
And hope and fear,—believe the aged friend,—
Is just our chance o’ the prize of learning love. (Robert Browning, “A Death in the Desert”)

…Listening In…

When Jesus finished saying these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son can glorify you. You gave him authority over everyone so that he could give eternal life to everyone you gave him. This is eternal life: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you sent.” (John 17:1-3; context)

…Filling Up…

There’s a common misconception among Christians that the “eternal life” that Jesus promises doesn’t begin until after we die. This thinking has led Christians of different persuasions down varying paths. Some have decided that eternal life must be earned and set about attempting to stock up points in the win column. Others have decided that eternal life includes time after we die in a place of trials intended to, once and for all, wash sin away; what we do on earth can contribute to the length of our stay in this place labeled “purgatory,” but pretty much everyone is going to have to serve time. (But don’t worry, proponents say, the eternal nature of life means that those years spent being “purged” are just a drop in the bucket.) Still others have gone to the opposite extreme, citing the fact that it doesn’t matter what we do on earth because Jesus’ act of sacrificial redemption is good enough to cover everything that is necessary for eternal life.

Whether or not you subscribe to one or more or none of these types of doctrines, they all have one thing in common; they draw a line between life here on earth and “eternal” life in the hereafter. But if you look at Jesus’ prayer above, you’ll notice that he makes no such distinction. You don’t have to wait for death for eternal life to begin. The very notion of something “eternal” beginning doesn’t really make since if you think about it. Eternal things just are. If they had to begin, they wouldn’t be eternal. (I’m aware that the last few sentences could lead to some very interesting discussions, but we don’t have space to have them just now.)

Here’s what I’m getting at: if we mistakenly wait for death for our eternal lives to begin, we are missing out in the here and now on the abundance that Jesus offers us when we share in his life. Waiting for death before we access eternity can actually lead us away from life and into the vagueness of mere existence. But accepting that we have eternal life – now, here – can lead us to find the fullness of the life that Christ gives us to share in.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are the eternal presence that frames existence and the creative presence that breathes life into being. Help me to know you, and in knowing you, find the eternal, abundant life that you offer to all. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, ready to step into the spotlight of my life and shine in the brilliance of your presence.

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