Summary: So much in our lives seems temporary; but God can give us a fresh start, can transform our incompleteness, and can give us hope.
Somebody asked me, when I was getting ready to take study leave, “Why are you doing this? Are you going for another degree? Are you preparing to take another job? And did the deacons make you do this?”
Well, I said, I’m taking the study leave because I don’t get much reading time under normal circumstances, and because I think we’ve got to face some issues about ministry here. So no, I don’t need or want another degree; I’m long past the time when more diplomas on the wall would mean anything. And no, I’m not trying to go to any other job .. just trying to do this one better. When I said all these things, he said, “Well, but to study, at your age … ?“. Stop right there. Just hold it. What has age got to do with it? With apologies to Tina Turner, who ought to know, what has age got to do with it?
Actually, the older I get the more I know I need to be rejuvenated. The older I get the more I know what I don’t know. The longer I run the more I become depleted, and need to get filled up again. I wasn’t looking for another degree, I wasn’t going for another job, and the deacons didn’t make me do it. I knew that I needed it. I knew that I needed to be re-instructed, re-energized, and refilled.
Because everything gets depleted, doesn’t it? Everything withers and fades and declines and eventually dies. Everything that looks permanent turns out to be temporary. Anything can be taken away, just like that!
My British wife has had a good time this week watching news coverage on the Queen Mum. One hundred years old, and looking good. I guess it would be unkind of me to say that a lot of us could look good if we had her welfare system going for us! A hundred years old, still doing the job: waving at the crowds. Tough life. Quite a record. But you know what? She may die tomorrow. She will die. She’s been here a long time, but she can be taken away; she will be taken away. Anything can be taken away, just like that!
In this country, we’re heading into election season. This is the 224th year of the American republic. That sounds like a long time. But did you know that in the annals of nations, we are just babies? The Roman Empire lasted more than a thousand years. But where is Rome now? It’s gone, taken away. Crumbled into dust. And the same thing will happen to us. We don’t like to think about it, but it’s true. Some day, some how, this nation will be grist for history’s mill. Things can be around for a long time, but they can be taken away, and often they are.
Just about anything you have can disappear overnight. Yesterday you had a good job, with salary and perks and stock options and a 401K plan. Tomorrow morning, pink slip. What the world gives the world can take away. Yesterday you had a fine reputation, well thought of, leader in the community, pillar of the church. This afternoon, temptation dazzles you; the rumor mill grinds you up; your mistakes multiply, and tomorrow it’s all gone. What the world gives the world can take away.
Would you like to be involved in something real? Would you like to know that your life is invested in something that will be here not just today, not just tomorrow, not just for a hundred years or even a thousand, but for eternity? Would you like to believe that what you are doing will make a permanent difference? I would. I want to believe that. Alfred Lord Tennyson said in his poem “In Memoriam” that we think we were not made to die. We think we were made for eternity.