Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This too shall pass away

One of the things we need to remember is that earthly blessings pass away. Now, we generally think of these earthly blessings in terms of wealth - things along the lines of "the rich fool" and his barns completed on his death bed. And yes indeed, wealth is a temporal blessing, and our lives should not be focused on acquiring it.

I wonder sometimes if we don't substitute other temporal blessings in the place of wealth, other blessings that become our focus and predominate our lives - only we feel more pious about it because it isn't "money" we are craving. My friend and classmate Ben Harju became ill and had to resign from his call (you may read things at his blog. I have to say I am humbled by his example - being the pastor of his congregations in Iowa was a blessing - but it was one that faded away. Perhaps when he is recovered he will receive another call, perhaps not. That is the way of blessings in this life. I wonder if sometimes we pastors don't remember that our time as a pastor is but brief. . . and temporary. Eternally, I am not defined by my vocation, however much of a blessing it is.

I also listened to an excellent discussion on Issues, Etc about contraception (note: that's the mp3 link) where many good points about the cultural impact of contraception we made. Now, both guests (Pastor Walther and Pastor Curtis) were a touch more hardline against contraception than I am (that's another post), they both ended up keying in on how we are turning away from the blessing of children today. While that is true - we do disdain children (I saw a commercial for Essure, a permanent feminine birth control on tv last night - and the ad was all about the fear of having another kid) - I am also left to wonder if perhaps we can elevate children and family too highly.

My wife is a blessing. She has been my wife for 1.67 years now. But the simple fact is this - she will not always be my wife. Death (or the return of Christ) will someday overtake us and part us. We get this, even if to us now it isn't a pleasant thought. In fact, my lovely bride wanted the hymn "Who Knows When Death May Overtake Me" sung at our wedding. Hopefully, if mere death and not Christ's return is the cause of the cessation of this blessing that day is far off. . . but it may not be. If something were to happen, should I shake my fist angrily, or rejoice for the blessing that my wife is that I in no way deserved, even for the briefest of time? And when we are reunited in heaven, it won't be a matter of being reunited as husband and wife, but as members of the body of Christ - a joyous reunion, but not to the same state as we were here on earth. Indeed, it will be a better one, where the faltering image of Christ's love for the Church that is earthly marriage will be seen more clearly!

The same thing with children. Yes, children are a blessing, but they are not the blessing that defines us. Craving children like another craves wealth is still a matter of craving an earthly relationship. And the two ideas go hand in hand - look at Job. God not only restored his wealth, but gave him new children to be a blessing to him. But even children are just a temporal thing. In deed, in eternity I will not relate to my parents the way that I do now. . . June and Greg (whom I would never address as such now) will be fellow members of the Body of Christ.

Other blessings too are temporary. The congregation you've grown up in, your country (America is a fantastic blessing, but we aren't going to be singing the Star Spangled Banner for eternity), your stuff - even the temple in Jerusalem passes away. We will be on to the new, to that which eye has not seen nor ear heard, but knowing that we will be like Christ - and thus far, far more blessed than the blessings we have now.

What is the point of all this? It is the heart of the sinful nature to take the blessings which God gives and turn them into idols, turn them into the focus, the end-all-be-all of life, the greatest good. Do not simply be on the look out for wealth as this only idolatrous blessing - and our Lord did not come to simply bring peace to our earthly blessings, but a sword that can cut through even the blessing of family (see Matt 10:35-37).

See the blessing in all things, but let them be simply that - blessings which enrich your life today and then pass away - blessings that you are to be stewards of, blessings which you have been given various duties of service towards - but even from that pleasing labor, one day you too shall rest. As for seeking joy or perfection in the things of this life - vanity of vanities, all is vanity!

Come, let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

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