The Christian life – a matter of life and death!

Well, actually, it’s a matter of death and life.

While, of late, I’ve been reading through the thousands of pages of handwritten poems I’ve collected over the years I came across one entitled ‘Death Lib‘ by Steve Turner, a 20th century poet. In the first three of its nine four-line verses the poet muses on how extensive and inclusive is death; and in verses 4 o 9 how relentless death is. Here are three sample stanzas.

  1. The liberating thing about death is in its fairness to women,

Its acceptance of blacks, its special consideration for the sick.

  1. Governments can’t ban it or the army defuse it,

Judges can’t jail it, lawyers can’t sue it.

  1. Scientists can’t quell it nor can they disprove it,

Doctors can’t cure it, surgeons can’t move it.

The Gospel of Christ

So, with that poem in mind, let’s remind ourselves that the Gospel of Christ is essentially a matter of life and death – or death and life. The apostle Paul expressed this clearly in his letter to the Christians in Corinth. He reminded them that, in ‘the Good News I preached to you before . . . what is most important [is that] Christ died for our sins . . . [h]e was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day. . . .’ (1 Corinthians 15:1- 4, New Living Translation).

And this to Paul was much more than lines in a creed. When writing to believers in Rome he jogged their memory on this matter:

‘Have you forgotten that all of us were immersed into union with Jesus, the Anointed One, we were immersed into union with his death?

‘Sharing in his death by our baptism means that we were co-buried and entombed with him, so that when the Father’s glory raised Christ from the dead, we were also raised with him. We have been co-resurrected with him so that we could be empowered to walk in the freshness of new life’ (Romans 6:3-4, The Passion Translation).

The practical outworking of these aspects of truth can be summed up in some lines from a published poem of mine based on Jesus’ teaching about the True Vine (John 15:1-17). I wrote it after noticing a saying by a famous atheist, one of several quotations on display in a local inn where we were having a family lunch.

VINTAGE WINE FROM WOUNDED VINE

 ‘To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.’ (Bertrand Russell)

To forego things we so enjoy is vital to our happiness.

This gospel of philosopher Bertrand Russell, atheist, greets one’s arrival at the bar of Locking Castle’s public house ‘Bucket and Spade’. Jesus himself labelled by his enemies as glutton, drinker of good wine – fully endorsed this gospel truth:

To forego things we so enjoy is vital to our happiness.

I’ll drink to that! ‘No pain, no gain’; ‘no cross, no crown’; to rise, we fall; to reap, we sow; we lose to win; let go to gain; so, at the end, ‘the last is first’.

God always gives the best to those who choose to leave the choice to him.

Forego for him what you enjoy and he’ll bestow true happiness.

If vines had voice would they not shout of no-lose choice? They would sing out of pruned and trodden gospel wine:

‘Forego the fondling of the flesh, fantasized imaginings. Your wood feels good, that’s fine; the wine’s divine, it’s best, and tastes sublime. In his delight be satisfied.’

I thought of the necessary disciplines of the pruning of the vine:

‘While surgeon’s knife removes disease, the gardener’s blade chops wood away I thought was good and wished to keep.

I also considered the treading of ripened grapes to produce wine:

‘And . . . the grapes he gleans I gladly yield beneath the feet of treaders of the winepress who squash and squidge between their toes in tingling fullness of the fruit of overflowing happiness.’

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