Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Appointment Calendar

Even the first plan required a death to set it in motion. After Moses had read out all the terms of the plan of the law—God's "will"—he took the blood of sacrificed animals and, in a solemn ritual, sprinkled the document and the people who were its beneficiaries. And then he attested its validity with the words, "This is the blood of the covenant commanded by God." He did the same thing with the place of worship and its furniture. Moses said to the people, "This is the blood of the covenant God has established with you." Practically everything in a will hinges on a death. That's why blood, the evidence of death, is used so much in our tradition, especially regarding forgiveness of sins… Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ's death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation. Hebrews 9:18-22, 27-28, The Message)

* * * * * * * *
Our planners, calendars, electronic devices, and such seem to house (and control) much of our lives. We put the smallest details in them as a reminder of something we have to do, somewhere we have to go, or someone we need to catch up with. We do this in a host of different ways, but we all share one thing in common. There is an appointment we will keep that is not on our schedules.

Back when I was in a college speech class, I chose the poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” by American poet Alan Seeger for one of my many projects. A couple of decades later, I still remember key elements from that poem, mostly about dying in war. Seeger talks about how Death might come in one form or another, on a deserted battlefield, in a burning town, and in any one of the four seasons. But the most poignant line is that with which he chooses to close the brief poem. Seeger simply writes, “And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.”

This reading is inspired by my late brother Mike, whose thoughts and writings planted the seed for the entire devotional in the first place. He had a book inside him that was trying to come out, but he ran out of time. Now, we all knew Mike would die, but we didn’t know when. So as the day dawned one Sunday in November 2000, we went about our business in one part of the country as we were accustomed to do. Meanwhile, God was gently but firmly calling Mike to his final home out of his place in the orphanage. The calls started back and forth that afternoon, ironically as we celebrated the first birthday of my youngest daughter. Before long, the final call came that Mike had slipped away into eternity with our Father God and Divine Brother Jesus. You see, we had the date on the calendar, just not for that particular event.

The writer of Hebrews notes that none of this should take us by surprise. God has always required a death to satisfy the penalty for our sin. He never promised us we would attain eternal life while we still reside in the mortal world. And, with the most notable exception of Jesus, everyone who has died in this world has stayed dead (even those who had to die twice like Lazarus). Paul clearly states in Romans that death is our paycheck for life in this sinful orphanage.

But the good news comes in the phrase that concludes the announcement of our impending death in Hebrews. Christ (as a man) died as well, but He did it in a way that makes our death a passage out of the orphanage and into a new Heavenly home. All those deaths and blood sacrifices required by Mosaic Law were only a picture of what would come. And not a single one of those animals ever stood back up on the altar and walked away. No, while their deaths were a necessary requirement, they were not the ultimate, full payment. That only happened in Christ.
I harbor no delusions of immortality. I’ve experienced too much death in family and friends around me to be tricked into that. I know I have some control over my mortality, and I do take the necessary steps to make sure I don’t fall victim to physical illnesses. But that doesn’t change the end game one bit. It is still a crooked path I travel and, barring the return of Jesus, I have an appointment on my calendar to die at the end of my journey. That is one appointment I will keep one way or another. I just thank God that Jesus’ death makes my own a passage rather than a payment.
* * * * * * * *
  1. Have you thought about your own appointment calendar lately? Have you considered the “missing” entry that you cannot avoid?
  2. If we truly believe that everyone will die (barring Jesus’ return for Christians), how should it make us live and face the world around us?
  3. When did you last pass on the Good News about Jesus’ death and how it changes our own deaths from payments to passages? What keeps you from doing it?

The Message – Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

No comments:

Post a Comment