Dates matter

Some dates are important.

They need to be remembered on the day they happened.

Birthdays.

Weddings.

Graduations.

For me, I love to remember the happy things in life. 

For the not so happy things, whilst I think it is important to remember them, I don’t want specific dates to be associated with them. For example, I don’t want Christmas to be spoiled because something sad happened in my world just before or after it.

Or so I thought. 

Turns out I seem to find the dates of the sad things important too. 

I had to stay late at work today. It was busy, things had to be done. I had planned to visit the cemetery. I’ve been there on an off for the past year and half or so. I don’t really enjoy it – I don’t think one is supposed to have a good time there, but I am always glad I’ve been. 

Today, having planned to go, and then finding that it might not be possible, I discovered that I really did care about going on a significant date. 

As it is June, it was actually still light enough after I left work, so I decided to pay a quick visit. (gates were open, but once I had parked it seems that the cemetery is actually closed to ‘visitors’. It had been such an emotional rollercoaster of a day that I decided to ignore the signs and stood for a few moments at the foot of the final earthly resting place of both my mum and dad. 

As I stood, I reflected on the world that we live in. The unprecedented impact of Covid-19, the protests in the USA, London and beyond. I wondered what mum and dad would have made of it all. On one hand I am glad that they are free from all the change and risk that Covid-19 has brought, on the other, I wish I was able to talk to them about it, to learn from their experience.

I wondered how they would have coped with things like church by Zoom, and not being able to give their grandchildren a hug. 

The strange thing about faith, at least the faith that I have, and that I know my parents shared, is that whilst I would give almost anything to have them here with me right now, I know with absolute assurance that they are in a much, much better place. I know that I will see them again. I know that if I could but glimpse the experience they were currently having, I would want to be there more than I want them back here.

The Apostle Paul summed that up well when he wrote “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” He understood that co-labouring with Christ here on earth was often a painful, but always worth it experience. He also knew that finding himself with Christ on the other side of death was infinitely better. 

I believe that too. It doesn’t always stop the tears though.

It was important that I went today. 

I miss them both.

What kind of fish are you?

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells us that ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught up all kinds of fish. When it was full the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

I began a series recently looking at ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ statements in the gospels, and wanted to explore this one a little.

Even if we haven’t been fishing ourselves, most of us are familiar with the picture of someone standing at the edge of a body of water with a rod, fishing line and some bait. This type of fishing is for sport or ‘fun’. Most of us will also be aware that the majority of the fish that we eat is caught in large nets, dragged behind a boat, capturing all in the way. This is the sort of picture that is being painted by Jesus. 

When He began talking about good and bad fish, I started to wonder how they would have decided which was good and which was bad. Was it a size thing? Did the smaller ones get thrown back to fight another day? Was it only those whose appearance (have you ever seen a good looking fish??) was appealing and would bring a good price at market? Surely all fish are good? Genesis 1:20-21 tells of God creating the things that live in the sea, and states that ‘it was good.’

When God gave the Law to Moses, He said that the only ‘clean’ type of fish were the ones that had scales and fins. (Leviticus 11:9-12, Deuteronomy 14:9-10). Clearly sin had entered the world between the two statements, a fracture in the goodness that God had established, but I am unclear as to why things like sharks and sturgeon were singled out as being unclean. 

I assume that this is the basis in which the fishermen of Jesus time chose the fish that were good and threw away those which were bad.

What then are the ‘signs’ that will allow the angels to separate us? Jesus says that the wicked will be separated from the righteous. What does a righteous person look like? What will the evidence be.

At the end of Mark’s gospel, Jesus tells us about the signs of those who believe. He says they will drive out demons, they will speak in new tongues, they will hold snakes and not get hurt, they will drink poison and not die, they will place hands on the sick and they will get well. (Mark 16:17)

I get very cautious about people that say they believe, confess that they are Christians yet I can see no evidence of the transformation that they claim has happened in their day to day lives. Jesus says there will be. 

The challenge for me, for us, is what is the evidence in my life. I don’t think it was necessarily Jesus intention that we use the list he gave as a check box exercise. It isn’t as if once we have spoken in tongues and prayed for a few people we are two steps up the ladder to heaven. I believe it is there to remind us that with the Kingdom of heaven within us, the things that should be impossible are actually possible. Have our lives been sufficiently changed by the King, that the rule and reign of the King leaks out of our lives, changing the atmosphere and culture of our environment? 

A place where the King is on the throne is a far more peaceful, powerful, effective place to live. 

Will you join me?