After thirty something changes. I am not exactly sure what it is. But every birthday since turning thirty has been a time where I inadvertently contemplate my mortality. I realize that some of you reading this will simply think I am ridiculous and have many years still ahead of me….where-areas some others of you who may read this actually think of me as older;) But contemplating your mortality always leads you to a unique place. And for me thus far in life I think it is safe to say that I have lived a life free of regret. I love my journey and where it has taken me so far. I see each day as potentially my new best day ever and I can’t imagine my life having gone any other direction.
That being said though, I want to do something. I realize that bucket lists were fashionable a few years back and so I am relatively late on the scene, but I thought it might be a good exercise for me today as I contemplate my life and where I am headed. So here is a list. A list of things I would love to do, but don’t necessarily have to do in order to be fulfilled. (And please feel free to comment on this post or on Facebook if you think there is something I need to add)
Purchase and learn to play a Banjo
Hike the entire 2,000 miles of the Appalachian trail…though not necessarily all at one time
Swim with sharks…I don’t even have to have a cage
Live for some amount of time in another country
Write a book…being published would be a bonus
Visit all 50 states in the US (I think I am at least half way there)
Get to see my kids grow up
Watch a game from The Green Monster
Visit and tour the United Kingdom
It’s not altogether to extensive of a list. But these are some experiences I would love for myself and for my family, although I am not sure my wife would concur on the Banjo. At the end of the day though I really just want one thing….to pass on to my kids the wonder of seeing the world for what it can be instead of what it sometimes is. I long for them to live life with the imagination of seeing God’s Kingdom come to Earth. After all…that is why we are here.
Grace and Peace
So this morning as we were leaving the drive of our house my six year old asked me a very important spiritual question, “Does mommy water our plants?” Well knowing about my wife’s lack of a chlorophyll colored thumb I gave the discretionary answer of, “probably not”. But I had to measure his concern. You see he was able with his aunt’s help to by my wife some tulips for Valentines day and I know he just wanted them to last a little longer…to be honest I am surprised they have lasted this long. But then it almost heartless fashion I added, “But to tell you the truth son, flowers die. That’s what they do. They are beautiful and fragile.”
Segue into Ash Wednesday. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of where our heads and hearts should be on this day the ushers in the Lenten season? God has made us into His image and placed within us the beautiful image of His Son and the gift of reconciliation. And at the same moment we are made of dust. We are insanely fragile. James 4:14 puts it this way, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” So inside this fragile shell which is here today and gone tomorrow God himself inhabits us for His glory. How much more amazing does that make this season.
You see for centuries Lent has been a time of recognizing our mortality and our dependency upon God for all things. So we empty ourselves for forty days. It may be of something simple like TV time or Soda, or it could be something more difficult like Facebook (tongue in cheek). But whatever the case may be we limit ourselves in some form or fashion in order to allow more space for God. After all, it is He who makes this mortal existence beautiful. It is He who transforms our dust shell with His breath. So maybe this Lenten season you are able to truly reflect on the Church’s cry of remembrance and recognize the beauty in our fragility, “Remember Mortal thou are dust and to dust you shall return.”
I was recently at the funeral of a close friend of mine’s father and it got me thinking (which is a dangerous activity for me)…why in the world would those who mourn be blessed? We all know the verse from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”And I (I think I am not alone in this) have always struggled with understanding these “blessings”. Blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst, etc. Evidently Jesus thinks that those who suffer or become doormats for the world are “blessed” I don’t know about you, but most of the time “blessing” is not the word that comes when I think about the downtrodden, the beaten-up and the brokenhearted. But maybe my idea of blessing flows through a limited scope.
But back to this funeral…it really got me thinking. When one mourns they are reminded of a couple of things. They get to reflect on the life of the loved one, but more than that, they must grapple a bit with the reality of death. Mourning reminds us of the fact that human life is fragile. James 4:14 reminds us of this, “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” All to often we go through life with this air of invincibility around us when in actuality…life is nothing but a vapor. Those who mourn are living out the kingdom of God in the now because they realize the now is not so long.
I think the issue comes sometimes with the actualization of that verse in Matthew. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. It’s not easy always to take comfort in the fact that life is short. It is not always easy to take comfort in the fact that this world is broken and dying because of sin. It is not easy to go through life brokenhearted because of loss and the emptiness of that which was. But those of us who mourn can take comfort in knowing that this is not the end. Death does not have the final word. Love has overcome the grave and there is an ending coming from which there will be no more mourning.
So maybe that is the answer. Maybe those who live in the Kingdom of God now know something the rest of us don’t know. Though we might not always see them as “blessed” by worldly standards, maybe the kingdom life is so much greater than this alternate reality we are sold. I think it might be a little easier to say now…Blessed are those who mourn, for they are living out a greater reality with hope of Resurrection than those who go through this life thinking this is all there is.
I apologize if it seems as if I haven’t stepped down from my soap box in a while, but sometimes you can’t help it. And after all, the premise of this blog is based on “the rants” of a young pastor.
But intro aside, there is something I have noticed in the church all my life that really irks me. Why is it that we think we are given the excuse to be mean simply because we have morality? It is almost that we think that there are varying degrees of sin and as long as my hands are cleaner than yours then I don’t have to treat you with common decency. Or if I can’t immediately spot the chinks in your armor, I can use my morally superior microscope to inspect your life until I find something I can lord over you. Do we really think it is all about a virtue score card that ultimately decides our fate and the fate of others? I certainly hope not. Not to say that virtue isn’t something to aspire too, but it is most definitely not a weapon to be wielded.
Let’s take the example of Jesus just for a moment (I know it sounds crazy). Who did Jesus snub because of their lower moral status? Think really hard…NO ONE! Jesus seemed to surround himself with ragamuffins, with the morally bankrupt. And if anyone ever had the right to draw a dividing line in the sand of morality it was Jesus. And yet the line did not exist. This is the scandal of Grace.
And what’s more, our righteousness is like filthy rags (do some research on this if you want to know the full revulsion of this remark) and yet we sometimes wear it like a badge of honor. So my plea is to drop the badge…throw down your arms…Stop being mean! Instead, may we learn to love like Jesus loved. By this, and only by this will people know that we are His disciples.