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Honiton Evangelical Congregational Church March

Dear Friends,

  Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day

My friend Graham Brown was due to talk about retirement at the EFCC Ministers’ Conference. At the last minute he was unable to attend and I had to read his paper in his absence.  The Old Age Pension began in the United Kingdom in 1910 but he pointed out with a pension age of 70 and an average life expectancy of 50 it wasn’t that generous a provision. Today average life expectancy is 81.6 years in the UK which is far higher than it has been in most places and at most times.

We have at home a 19th Century children’s book called ‘Peep of Day’ which is very blunt and simply assumes that if you are aged say 9 or 10 you will be familiar with death  and infant mortality. However when I was about to enter the ministry aged 31 in 1982 I had never experienced a death in our immediate family. Talking about death has almost become the 21st Century obscenity – our culture is open about sex but very coy in its attitude to death.

Historically and Biblically the Christian good news has centred on Christ’s death for our sins and his bodily resurrection from the dead. Comfort regarding the future was not a fulfilled life on earth followed by some sort of spiritual continuation after death but flesh and blood resurrection in a new heavens and new earth where righteousness has its home.

Why is it that the 21st Century Church in the West seems to have little sense of this eternal dimension and the flesh and blood reality of salvation which it holds out to us? I think there are two reasons – firstly, we’ve bought into the cultural myth that not considering death as an impending reality, barring the need to make adequate provision for our funerals of course, is viable and sensible. Secondly we are not used to the idea that conversion to Christianity can drastically affect your life expectancy and prospects within this life. In many countries conversion to Christ can mean you will be martyred or that you will experience lifelong pressures and persecution which will deeply injure our prospects socially and financially. There are still many countries where getting a job or entering university will be far more difficult if you are a Christian – why accept that if you do not factor in a heavenly reward?

Actually, spiritually blindness is natural to humanity and will simply express itself differently in different times and cultures. Reality for all of us is, ‘Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day’ and the only answer is faith in Christ who is ‘the resurrection and the life’. Hope for eternal life with God is in Christ or there no hope.

   Yours in the Lord,