Sunday, 30 August 2015

Hold on to these words

"The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Psalm 103:15, 16

With arms slightly out stretched, he harbored himself between two symbols that time can never erase...and today it only seemed even more appropriate. His left hand was on the baptismal font and his right hand rested on the pulpit that holds a carving of a cross. His back was turned to the congregation as he sang the words to "10,000 Reasons" that were printed on the screen at the front of the church. On one occasion, I noticed he reached into his pocket for a cloth to wipe away what I can only imagine to be tears. I don't know if this was his usual stance with  his arms extended outwards resting on symbols of Christian sacraments as if to give him support. But on this occasion - his farewell sermon - Pastor Paul anchored himself to two undying truths: the cleansing water of baptism and the saving blood of the cross.

As a visitor at this morning's service at Dundas Calvin Christian Reformed Church (the church of my youth and teenage years), I was blessed to hear Pastor Paul Vanden Brink's plea to "remember the cross". After 10 years of service, and probably close to delivering 1000 messages, all filled with equal measures of urgency and passion I'm sure, he implored his 'flock' to remember Christ's sacrifice for you and me; to remember the cross. We were reminded that at the end of our earthly days, the cross is the only thing that matters in life - not your job, career, family, house - or anything that you take pride in. It's not how religious you are, how faithful you've been to your spouse, how good of a parent you are to your children, how 'vice-less' you are, or how you never cheat the tax man. If you don't know the bitter taste of the cross, you'll never savour its sweet message of hope. If you haven't heard your own voice accusing Jesus as he hung on Calvary's cross, you'll never hear his welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant". Christ's death equally and without prejudice atoned the sins of the repentant hooker and the pious 'habit' wearing nun. This - Christ's death and resurrection - is the ONLY thing that lasts forever. Forget everything else.

It's this matter of 'passing things' that's been on my mind lately. Like the verse from Psalm 103 above, we're reminded that we are here for only a short time. Yesterday, on my birthday, God in his mercy blessed me with another year. I think it's only natural that as we get older we start looking back and evaluating our life. Do I have unfulfilled dreams? What will my legacy be? Have I been the son, brother, husband and father that God wants me to be? All these questions inevitably and invariably end with feelings of regret and failure. Because, after I die, and my great-grand children's grand children are nipping at the heels of their parents, no one will either think of or remember me..or you. That's true for 99.99% of the population. I hope this isn't a revelation to anyone! Really.

So, I can spend lots of time trying to create a 'perfect life'. I can buy the latest toys, live in the nicest home, create precious moments by the vacations I take. I can build an irresistible online profile that everyone would admire, have a high powered career, or even be a devoted homemaker. But it's like the flower - here today and gone tomorrow. Poof. Gone. Finished. What then?

It's the 'what then' question that was still floating in my thoughts this morning as I prepared myself for worship. And in a moment what felt like divine providence I saw the symbols that Pastor Paul positioned himself between. The refreshing, cleansing water of the font where I was baptised as an infant and the empty cross where my Jesus once hung. That's all I have...and that's all I really need.

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—" Psalm 103:17