Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jesus talks about real life - Lent 26

OK, just for clarification: Yes, that's me smiling on the golf course this weekend. But... no, that's not me playing golf instead of attending church this morning! Much as I love golf and much as I enjoy the outdoors - especially Florida at 80 degrees in the middle of March - I could never use the "I worship God on the golf course, that's how I thank God for nature and beauty" rationalization. There's something about authentic worship in the context of the community of faith - prayer and music and time set aside for focused attentiveness to the Spirit - that's incomparable; a polite nod to God by way of justifying church-avoidance via golf fools neither me nor the Almighty!

So, this is a picture of me on the golf course on Friday afternoon. I hit the ball lots of times, getting much better value for money "per stroke" than those who post a lower score (think about it!). I played with Tim Black, the mission and discipleship pastor at our church; Tim got even more value for his money. 

Golf is a fun part of my life - but the game fails to even remotely define me. It's my ongoing fellowship with Christ that makes absolutely every element of this life meaningful in the most amazing way.

SUNDAY: Lent, day 26. "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you." - Jesus (John 17:3)
  • Here's the context, John 17:1-5. "After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began...'"
Talk about an incredible affirmation! Just in case there's any confusion as to what exactly is involved in the hereafter, Jesus clarifies things with this powerful promise and description of what eternal life means - both in substance and in spirit.

C.S. Lewis - one of my "Top Ten" favorite authors - argues that Hell is, quite simply, eternal life without God (The Great Divorce). Or, put another way, Hell is exactly what people who have rejected God want to experience. The place achieves its unpleasant character, Lewis suggests, as people live out their personal desires and gratifications without the mitigating influence of following Jesus and placing God at the center of their hopes and dreams.

"The Great Divorce" rings true, it always has. But now, reading Christ's definition of eternal life, I find myself even further convinced that Lewis was right on the mark. Because, when Jesus talks of "knowing the Father", it conjures up a more complete image of heaven than, say, day after day of golf, or a trouble free life, or undisturbed tranquility - in other words the limited perspective of my self-oriented wishes.

Christ's invitation is always to restoration, to a "stepping back into God's presence" so that we have this ongoing opportunity to renew the redemptive relationship which was intended from the very beginning of Creation.

I have this image in my head of an amazing heavenly library/learning center, where C.S. Lewis himself offers readings from his writings; where St. Francis facilitates symposiums on simplicity; where the Apostle Paul offers discussion on "Romans for Dummies", Graham Green lectures on "The Power and the Glory", and George Frederick Handle sits at the piano, annotating a lively "Messiah" master-class with commentary on his own work....

To know God! To engage the fount of creativity on a fundamental level and to enjoy intimate conversation. The first step, of course, on this journey into eternity, is to enter into God's presence each and every day and to actualize the possibility of deeper knowledge by accepting the work Christ has already done; to accept on an emotional as well as an intellectual level; to accept this invitation to live.

PRAYER: We knew about you, Lord God, before we started to know you more personally. Please encourage us in the purpose that we have, and please teach us how to know you on a deeper level still. Amen

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