Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?

 

hopeFive times in the last two weeks I have stood with grieving families with these words of hope – “In my Father’s house are many rooms … I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14) Looking to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I have reminded all those gathered ‘round a grave of the promise of the resurrection secured by Christ Jesus who showed us that we can live forever. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22, NIV)  It’s personal for me! Monday I visited a beautiful little cemetery on the mountain a couple of miles from my home – where my wife’s body was laid to rest five months ago – and there I planted roses. And I remember that though her body lies there, she lives beyond my reach.

I am increasingly a creature of eternity; my heart loving the hopeful promise of heaven as my home. Are you?  Have you lost sight of eternity?

The heavy responsibilities of daily life, getting the mortgage paid, keeping the kids fed, putting supper on the table can, and too often did in my past life, make us forget that we are “aliens and strangers in the world .‘  How many sermons in your church remind you of the brevity of life and the promise of life beyond the grave. Even Christian funerals are sometimes more celebration of the memories than a proclamation of the HOPE– our resurrection life assured in Christ Jesus.

We have become deluded by the idea, a lie by the way, that we can find Heaven on earth, a utopia. And we manage, some of us for many years, to preserve an illusion that our life will never end.  N.T. Wright observes that for centuries Christians walked to worship past cemeteries.  They entered a place used “weekly for prayer, Eucharist, celebration, for baptisms and weddings, for the whole worshipping life of the community … there is something wonderful and profound about entering church through the churchyard where are buried those who worshipped there in centuries past.”  (Surprised by Hope) This was a powerful reminder that they would in due time enter their rest in Christ, awaiting the Resurrection.  Morbid, you say? Or, would it help us to grow past our insistence on a fluffy, happy, ‘don’t make me think about hard choices,’ religion that passes for discipleship in so many lives today?

There will be NO great sacrifice, NO costly service, NO passion for building the Kingdom of God unless we have a view of life that prominently includes the promise of our eternal life and an awareness that each one of us will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, our Lord, to receive our just reward. (And, then too, there is that grim counter-truth of those who exist outside of His light and life for eternity!) Has the quest for perpetual youth and beauty, those prayers for blessings and trouble-free lives, hidden Heaven from sight?

Resurrection life begins on this side of eternity!  “Walk worthy of the high calling,” the Bible demands. We need not be overtaken by the emptiness reflected in the words that Shakespeare put in the mouth of Macbeth: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

We know that this life is the opening scene for the unfolding divine plot to bring us from death to life, from ‘this perishable to the imperishable.’   The 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians celebrates our resurrection- “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-58, NIV)

Here is a word from the Word. Savor the promise. Make it real for life, not just for funerals and times of grief. I have read the end of the Book, and here’s what it says:  “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:1-7, NIV)

Because He lives, I too shall live.  So, I am oriented to eternity. How about you?

___________

Sweet Beulah Land

I’m kind of homesick for a country

To which I’ve never been before

No sad good-byes will there be spoken

For time won’t matter anymore

 

I’m looking now across the river

Where my faith will end in sight

There’s just a few more days to labor

Then I will take my heav’nly flight

 

Beulah land I am longing for you

And someday on Thee I’ll stand

Where my home shall be eternal

Beulah land sweet Beulah land

 

(Beulah means ‘married’ in Hebrew and is a metaphor for that time when we are taken to our Heavenly Husband’s home)

Squire Parsons Jr.© 1979 Kingsmen Publishing Company (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.) CCLI License # 810055

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