This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton
FPCE senior pastor.
Judith and I took another trip to Jamaica — not for sun, sea, surf, and Piña Coladas —but for yet one more family funeral. Over the last 15 months, the unfavorable winds of Death have blown like a hurricane through Judith’s family.
Over an online broadcast, we paid our respects and said goodbye to her two uncles in the summer of 2021. Then, last December, we traveled to Jamaica to say goodbye to her youngest brother, Devon. Finally (we will hope it is finally), last week, yet again, we went back to Jamaica to thank God for the life of her beloved Aunt Emma.
Judith and I are now reading through the book of Job — talk about a man standing in a deadly series of hurricanes. Job lost his children, his businesses, his marriage, his health and peace of mind. The name of Job has become synonymous with personal suffering.
After reading the Scriptural account of Job’s profound experience of life, death, and suffering for our first time in years, the third chapter came crashing into our reality. Here Job lamented the day he was born. In fact, he essentially said, I wish I were never born; I wish I died in my mother’s womb.
Unrelenting death and suffering will push the best of us into similar valleys of despair.
On this most recent trip back to Jamaica, I carried in my bookbag Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand weeks: Time Management for mortals. Of course, some will read this book and say, “What’s the big deal? Nothing new here. You are born, you live your life, and then you die, and that’s it.” Yes. That’s true. But Burkeman makes his case more compellingly.
He writes: “The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. Assuming you live to be eighty, you’ll have had about four thousand weeks. Certainly, you might get lucky: make it to ninety, and you’ll have had almost 4,700 weeks.”
Expressing the matter in such stark, startling terms makes it easy to see why philosophers from ancient Greece to the present day have taken the brevity of life to be the core defining problem of human existence.
Here’s the problem, according to Burkeman: Human beings have the mental capacity to dream, imagine, and sketch out amazingly ambitious plans, yet possess practically no time to put them into meaningful, lasting action.
Other than telling me that I have already lived about 3,232 weeks and will soon reach my allotted number of weeks on this earth, the book literally ends with the vague message, we are all going to die, so “roll up your sleeves and start working on what’s gloriously possible ahead.” How does that make you feel?
Contrast Burkeman’s blunt message to us earthly beings with the message of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, and suddenly light, hope, and meaning should well come to pervade our much-too-often dreary world.
Assuming the Biblical record of his life is correct, Jesus lived for only some 1,720 weeks or so. Yet he accomplished so much more through his death and resurrection, in time immeasurable as Eternity.
And that’s what Holy Week communicates to the world: Death is certainly on the horizon for us, but Christ, through His death, defeated this mortal enemy. For all of his followers. Forever.
In I Corinthians 15, Paul asks with incredulity: Now, if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? (I Corinthians 15:12)
He pokes holes into the prevailing argument bandied about in ancient Greece, the thought that when people die, their soul continues after death, but, in the afterlife, everything is meaningless.
Paul paints a more colorful and hopeful picture: for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (I Corinthians 15:22-23)
This Holy Week, I ask you to consider doing these three things:
- Join us for our Holy Week observances starting tonight with Maundy Thursday, then Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
- Bring your friends to some or all of these services. The last 24 months have been devastating for all of us, and many need to hear that there is Hope in Christ.
- Slow down this week and read the Passion narratives of Christ’s last week on Earth. I pray you never become bored with the message of the Cross (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
(“In Christ Alone”: Keith and Krystin Getty)
Trusting in Christ our risen Savior,
Pastor Ray Hylton