Lenten Devotional: March 18th
Most of my life, when I've thought of the phrase "life everlasting" I have thought of life in heaven. It is more than any of us can ever dream it to be. It is life beyond our wildest imaginations, beyond any ability to conceive. Think for a moment of what God had in mind when first creating us – life as God intended it to be from the beginning. Now put that into a world where there is no evil, no sin, no sorrow, no suffering, no disease, no death; only life together in full, loving, communion with God and with one another.
But the gospel of John does an interesting thing. Throughout the gospel of John he talks about "life everlasting" as if it is possible in the here and now. Eternal life, it seems, is what we begin to experience in this life, what the great theologian Paul Tillich once called the "eternal now."
New Testament Scholar Bishop N.T. Wright, in a little book entitled Simply Christian, says, "Despite what many people think... the point of Christianity isn't 'to go to heaven when you die.' Earth and heaven were made to overlap with one another, not fitfully, mysteriously, and partially as they do at the moment, but completely, gloriously and utterly."
The knowledge of "life everlasting" breaks through and has an effect on how we live now. We know the end of the story and it changes our lives now. We experience a good life, an eternal life in the now because we don't have to fear death. When it comes down to it, all our fears that rob us of the present moment are actually about the fear of death. Whether it's fear of what may happen with our politics in Washington or Botox being injected into another forehead in Dallas. All fear is fear of death.
You may have seen a movie a few years ago, Big Fish. For sure it is not everyone's cup of tea. It is a tall tale, a fantasy, but from beginning to end, the movie is filled with biblical parable. On the surface it is about a larger than life character named Edward Bloom who grew up in a small southern town. And like the small town that I grew up in, this town has a haunted house. And like any haunted house worth its salt, it is occupied by a witch. The witch has one clear eye and one milky eye.
Legend has it, if you look into her milky eye you will see how you will die. Bloom, when he is a little boy marches bravely right up to the front door of this haunted house and confronts the witch. "I want to see. I want to know." He says, in other words, "how is this going to end?"
She looks at him knowingly, and lifts the patch off of her milky eye. He looks into it and the camera pans to his face. Edward Bloom breaks into a smile that is simultaneously reassuring and liberating. "So that's how it ends," he says. And from that point on, he is afraid of nothing. Death has no power over his life. No matter what he faces from that point on, he says to himself, "this is not the end."
He knows the end of the story. And you and I do, too. We do not have to fear death because death has been put in its place. So, welcome to everlasting life, now.
Rev. Brent Barry, Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church