Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What will you do with the time you are given (in Jelly Beans)

Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

Jonathan Edwards

Resolution Number 9.

Yesterday, I went to a moving funeral in a Baptist church and as always happens I realised anew that people will remember my life in a formal sense for about half an hour (someone will speak about it for no more than ten minutes- six if we have an extra hymn). My pal who played the piano at the said funeral reminded me of this and we chatted in the car on the way back about the fact that how we respond to Jesus and his mission is the only thing that is ultimately going to count. So, first thing this morning I listened to 'What is our mission' (Chandler is one of the shouty no-nonsense preachers I like that won't be your cup of tea but I am someone who needs a raised voice to kick me into action). It gave me fresh focus on what things really matter.

You see, not much of the stuff people get their knickers in a twist about truly matters and most of the issues you are terribly flustered by today you won't, given time, be able to remember. If you are forty-five you now realise that your O-levels didn't have the enormous consequence you were told they would (I managed not even a single A, let alone an A star, which hadn't yet been invented) and the truth is most of the people we know who have achieved and done interesting things didn't triumph aged 16 with good GCSE's. Not that many of the middle classes of West London stop for a moment to tell their children this.

Now, on with my morbid reflection. If you are posh (and Anglican) you may have what's called a "Memorial service' which will be about all the things you achieved and is the opportunity to gather everyone together to tell them you were 'Chief Executive of This' or 'Head of That' or 'Dean of the other'. If you are a Christian a memorial service is an opportunity for some testimony to how you followed Jesus. This is always good to hear and to be encouraged by. However, most ordinary people these days go to the Crem and that's all done in under half an hour and, if you opt for a Christian funeral then Cranmer's liturgy takes about twenty of the thirty you're allocated (or to be fair the Vicar is allocated it because I'll be dead). If you go for a humanist funeral they will be happy to talk all about you for the full half hour and will also play some of your record collection but talking about 'you' for longer won't make your impact any greater or the significance of your life any more meaningful. Anyway, to be a secular humanist is by definition to have done away with the idea of hope or purpose or anything more than this. The only thing left is your life and then dust so personally I've chosen Christ's life and the hope of Glory over my own motley record (and the dust)

Cranmer's liturgy is a good and marvellous thing and is very short on 'us', exactly because your life isn't, never will be and wasn't purposed to ever be about you. It was (and hopefully is) meant to be centred upon Jesus, his life, his purpose and his mission. As an aside, if you have a think about what your life revolves around and it's not Jesus there is every likelihood that this is your idolatry. We all have idols.

In a secular culture no one likes to speak about death. I always remember a man who I worked opposite when I first started working for 'Sunshine deserts'.

My colleagues name was Clive and he'd worked for Sunshine deserts for 36 years and then one day I said goodbye to him at five and he dropped dead in his back garden that same night. Clive spent his life organising the movement of containers of deserts from one depot to another. We all went to the Crem for his funeral, had a finger buffet, a pint of Adnams and a sausage on a stick in a pub in Amersham and then all went back to work. The very next day there was someone different sitting at Clive's desk moving the 'deserts' from a to b. I had something of a moment that only with hindsight of course led to me resigning from spending my life as Clive had. Clive and many many like him were in my mind when I wrote 'What's it all about?' and I emailed it to anyone and everyone who asked me 'Why are you leaving?'.

We should all spend a bit of time, as Covey says, beginning with the end in mind. Also, reading 'If you want to walk on water' and a book called 'Let your life speak' by Parker Palmer might be good and I found personally so helpful.

Here are a few questions:

1. How are you currently spending your time?
2. Who are you spending your time with?
3. What are you spending your money on?
4. Have you made any disciples?
5. Do you have a plan for how you are making a disciple of yourself and others?
6. Are you reading?
7. Are you growing?
8. Are you praying, reading scripture and journalling in order to know God better and serve him more faithfully?

Apologies this isn't very cheery but nor is death. Fortunately, if you're a follower of Jesus death is not the end of the story. Instead the promise is of a life of unfettered fullness and joy that continues forever.
Without Jesus, let's be honest, it's all rather pointless and I for one will not be playing those I leave behind my record collection. They should all be very grateful to me for that.

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