And the life everlasting?

My life is full of 30-minute delays: The times when 30 minutes after I have a conversation, I realize something important that I wish I had noticed or said in the moment.

I can’t provide many details of my last case. It involved a pastoral encounter. The summary is this: 30 minutes after it was over, I realized that my focus had been on earthly concerns and comfort rather than eternal issues. I’d dealt with clay jar concerns and neglected the treasure inside.

Pondering this, I was reminded of one of the pieces of John Wesley’s writings that sticks with me.

I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity!

These words have been on this blog since its creation. But how easily I forget them. How easy it is to treat people as just so many animals moving from birth to death. But they will live in eternity after this life is over. And as a pastor, it is my task to help guide them to a happy destiny. Salvation begins in this life, but extends forever.

This observation does not lead me to conclude I should be out screaming in the streets or even that I should press people in clumsy ways. But I do fear I am too often more interested in earthly comfort than eternal destiny.

Have I done what I can and should to make sure people I encounter do not drop into eternity unprepared? Do I act as if the last line of the Apostles Creed is actually true?

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8 thoughts on “And the life everlasting?

  1. Hey John, you should check out Jonathan Martin, the pastor of Renovatus Church in Charlotte NC. He’s a Pentecostal and he seems to me to be preaching a gospel that has the heart of Wesley without the 18th century Platonism (eg the immortality of the soul instead of resurrection of the body expressed on your quote). Right now his sermon series is called “Life after Life,” exactly what you’re talking about. I’m listening to his podcast right now. It’s absolutely Biblically faithful; he doesn’t sugarcoat but its filled with love; it’s very hopeful even though he calls out some of the pieties I’m suspicious of. Check him out. I want to see how he sounds to your ears. I think it would be some common ground. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Morgan. I’ll try to track him down.

      Re: Platonism. Yes, I see that in the quote, but the eternal aspect is the same whether we fall into “separated souls” or “resurrected bodies” ways of talking about it. I find NT Wright really interesting on that whole conversation, but don’t want to lose track of the eternity aspect while clarifying the mode questions.

      And just for the heck of it, Wesley actually is quite aware of the distinctions raised by Wright. He argues (in other places) that there is a separation post-mortem, pre-second coming. He sees this as explaining the exchange with the thief on the cross and the rich man and Lazarus. But he argues for resurrection and embodiment at the second coming, too.

    2. Ecclesiastes — was he a Platonist — 12:6: Remember [your Creator] before the silver cord is severed,and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

      I wonder what NT Wright says about that verse.

      1. This is not talking about immortality of the soul in the sense of Plato. It is simply expressing that all life is aphar (dust, inert material) + ruach (God’s spirit). When God’s spirit goes back to God, our life turns to dust. It is God’s spirit, not our individualized soul. The word Hebrews use for a “soul” (breath) in an individualized sense is nefesh, not ruach. So basically what this passage is expressing is the degree to which our life is entirely contingent upon God.

  2. Seriously though. Listen to Jonathan Martin. I’m dying to hear what you hear in him. He’s saying what I wish I knew how to say if I weren’t a hot-headed curmudgeon.

    1. I found about 15 minutes earlier today to listen to the first part of the first sermon in the series. I found his style and demeanor extremely attractive. I did not get deep enough in to hear anything that was not warmed over NT Wright — not that I’m against Wright. But I’m curious to see where he goes. This week is just the wrong one for me to try to find an hour to listen.

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