It can be great fun to travel for a holiday, especially when that travel takes us to new places. Sometimes even the journey can be part of the adventure rather than just a means of getting there. If you have been fortunate to travel abroad you may have enjoyed tasting new cuisine, experiencing different cultures and exploring new scenery. Holidays usually seem too short and we may fantasize about them lasting longer. However in reality we are just passing through and it is always good to get back home, sleep in our own bed and enjoy being back among people we know and love.
Some years ago there was a popular gospel song that had the line: ‘This world is not my home I’m just a-passin’ through’. The song writer was expressing the hope that after this life is over, we have an eternity with Christ to look forward to. Whether we live to 80, 90 or 100, compared to eternity this present lifetime, like a holiday, it is all too brief.
In 2 Corinthians 5 Paul compares our present life as being like living in a tent. It is a temporary structure; one which he says causes us to groan and be burdened because it is inadequate and unsatisfactory. Referring to our death he tells us that when this earthly tent is destroyed we can look forward to a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
Paul expresses an intense desire to leave behind this earthly tent. He writes: meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, and we are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Paul picks up a similar theme in Philippians 1. You are probably familiar with the verse that says: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But have you ever spotted that two verses later he writes: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far ?
Like the song writer, Paul held loosely to this present life, regarding the future eternal hope as something to be eagerly desired. I wonder how many of us are genuinely more excited by our eternal heavenly inheritance than we are by this present life. I wonder too what a transformation it would make to live this life more like being on holiday, enjoying the scenery but not putting down any roots because we’re just passing through.
This blog post featured in the July/August 2015 edition of Lifelines
Holiday season is upon us and this edition of Lifelines will cover both July and August as many of us will be away for a few weeks before September. The length of holiday entitlement varies greatly depending upon where in the world you live. A recent report from Mercer revealed that, when statutory holiday and public holidays are combined, Austria and Malta are the countries with the most generous entitlement at 38 days each. The USA languishes at the bottom of the tables with zero statutory paid leave days!
If you check out the meaning of ‘holiday’ in the Oxford dictionary it will tell you that the word comes from the Old English haligdæg which means holy day. This reflects that the historical origin of such days was linked to religious festivals when the best most people could hope for would be to enjoy time off on days like Christmas and Easter. The concept of prolonged leisure days at an employer’s expense is a modern one deriving from improved living standards. Despite these more generous work-life balance benefits, many people experience added stress around holiday times. Whether it is the pressure of finishing tasks before heading off for a break, catching up on the backlog on their return or in some cases the continued phone and email contact during the holiday, the holiday season can be at least as stressful as the rest of the year.
Jesus was not immune from pressure and, when the crowds pressed in and tried to set his agenda, he would take himself away to a quiet place where he could be alone with his Father.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
The New International Version. (2011). (Mt 14:22-23). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
If Jesus needed space for time alone away from the pressure of people then surely we, as his followers, also need the same. Jesus’ priority however was time with his Father. Over this holiday season, as you spend time with your family seeking physical and metal refreshment, let me encourage you to also spend more time alone with God and make at least some of your holiday a holyday. Why not set yourself a challenge to read and reflect on more of the bible than you have time for in your daily routine. You could read the whole of a gospel or some of the letters and ask God to show you how these might impact your life. As you do this you will find your spirit refreshed and be better ready to face the pressures of daily life on your return.
This blog post featured in the JulyAugust 2014 edition of Lifelines
In just a few weeks the schools will break up for the summer holiday. Many families will be packing their bags and heading off to destinations in the UK, Europe and beyond, to chill out and relax. Whether it is a traditional week by the sea, lazing by a villa in the sun, a city break exploring the sights or engaging in more active outdoor pursuits, my guess is that having good weather will be a priority. Like an oasis, holidays offer refreshment and escape from normality. We look forward to escaping the hum drum routine of daily life, the pressures of work and school, even the sorrows and disappointments that accompany life.
For many people their dream home would be located in the kinds of locations that we favour for our summer holidays. The Channel 4 TV show ‘A Place in the Sun’ taps into our desire to live in a warm sunny climate, beautiful surroundings with proximity to the sea. No matter how comfortable our present circumstances may be there seems to be an innate longing for something better.
At the heart of the Christian message lies an expectation that this life is not the best it gets. We look forward with expectancy to the day when heaven and earth will be renewed and we will spend eternity in paradise with Christ. Our eternal home will be a place of such beauty and peace that even the most idyllic holiday destination will seem bland in comparison. After a while, even those living in a dream home find that there are chores to do and sorrows to be experienced, but we will never get bored exploring God’s new creation which will be full of joy and free from sorrow.
The Christian message also tells us that this eternal hope is a gift to be received rather than a reward to be earned. Many people give hours of thought to planning a holiday in the sun, which lasts an all too brief few weeks, yet give no thought about preparation for eternity. If you would like to know how you can be certain about an eternity in paradise then please visit us on a Sunday or contact us during the week in the church office.
This blog post featured in the July/August 2014 edition of Hook Focus