March Pastor’s letter
At the funeral of my spiritual mentor, Bill Smith, Bob Albers, his (as well as my mother’s) eulogist, described the event that pulled him out of the despair the tragic death of his son had sent him into. “Bob,” said Bill. “I’m not intimidated by your despair.”
Behind this statement was Bill Smith’s unshakeable faith. This conviction to the core of his being plus his natural love of people made Bill so popular on the Luther Seminary campus that they just let him keep his office long after he had retired. And from that office, he continued to not only continue his study of Augustine, but also the care of students and persons in call, like myself in my early years at St. Olaf.
But, the purpose of bringing this incident to your attention is not to extol the greatness of Bill Smith, but to rather, relate the way a person of ultimate faith moves through this earthly existence. A person of ultimate faith understands that this earthly life is but the birthing room for one’s ultimate infinite existence with God. There is an earnestness for heaven as expressed variously by people ranging from the Apostle Paul to Jimi Page. (Paul: “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better, indeed.” (Philippians 1:23) Page: “There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west, and my spirit is crying for leaving.” (Stairway to Heaven) I personally love the expression penned by Brooke Fraser in the contemporary Christian hymn, “Hosanna.”
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom’s cause
As I walk from earth into eternity
Such conviction of an afterlife in no way demeans the value or the happiness of life in this life and this world. In fact, it enhances this life by providing comfort and relief from the traumas and tragedies of this life. In the TV miniseries, Paul the Apostle, when Barnabas realizes Paul’s trip to Rome is not without peril, he says to Paul, “But, I may never see you again.” Paul hesitates for just one second as the impact of Barnabas’ statement hits him, and then confidently replies, “I’ll see you in heaven.”
But, again, the purpose of bringing this incident to your attention is not to extol the greatness of Paul (or Jimmy Page for that matter), but to encourage you during this season of Lent and to prime you for that greatest of human activities on this earth, which is to let people know the good news of the gift of eternal life received in Jesus. As you head into Lent, take this thought with you. Eternity has less to do with time than it has to do with the presence of God.
Peace…. Pastor Dale
Posted on March 3, 2023, in St. Olaf Blog. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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