October 21, 2013

Departing this Life

            Paul is remarkably forthright as he contemplates the conclusion of his life.  In this moving passage, the reader senses his longing to depart and be with the Lord.
As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8)
His language of being “poured out as a libation” is spiritually rich.  Drawing from imagery of priestly sacrifice, he compares his life to a “drink offering,” one given wholly to God.  This has been a central theme in his apostolic work, as he has followed the pathway of Jesus, who emptied himself for others.

Other themes of his ministry are here.  He has competed as a good athlete, and now he awaits his prize, a “crown of righteousness.”  He knows that he can entrust his future to God, the source of righteous judgment and resurrection hope.
This lovely time of year also signals departure and dying.  Shimmering trees that delight us will soon be bare as they prepare for a new season.  The seasons of our lives are fleeting, also.
The end of October and early November are special times of remembrance for the church.  On October 31 we celebrate “All Hallows Eve,” followed by All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2).  These days were given to remembering the dead, and all the accouterments of Halloween (witches, black cats, zombies, etc.) came later.

Baptists could profit from devoting greater attention to these liturgical holidays.  Some congregations use Memorial Day as a time of remembering those who have departed in the prior year; solemnly reading their names, often accompanied by a tolling bell.  Why not make the Sunday nearest All Saints’ Day a time of giving thanks for their lives?
Celebrating Eucharist on that day could further enrich the service.  The church gathers with Christ’s whole Body—with those whose rest is won and those still running the race.  The dead in Christ are near to us as we remember their graceful imprint on our lives.
Following the pattern of the Apostle, let us strive to be faithful in all seasons of our lives.  We also trust that God reserves for us the ultimate prize, to be in God’s unhindered presence eternally.

Molly T. Marshall

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