Make No Peace With Death—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Rhoda Reynolds
I really like the guided prayers and shared this with others. The thoughtfulness of this one touched my heart.

Originally published, April 22, 2020, based on readings from Ecclesiastes 9 & Titus 1.

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 9.3-4
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

Titus 1.1-3
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior

Reflection: Make No Peace With Death—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

With all his wisdom, Solomon, the teacher, recognized that God had set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11) but in some writings seemed to barely hold a glimpse of what God had in mind for humanity in eternity.

Solomon’s conclusion about death is not that dissimilar at times from billionaire tech giants of today (our culture’s definition of “wise men”) who see death as an evil that should be eradicated.

In 2018, Jacob Banas wrote about the cultish obsession of tech giants with longevity and defeating death:

“Traditional religion in the Bay Area is being replaced with…a belief in the power of technology and science to save humanity,” …Combine this…with leaders who are too young to find peace in the concept of death and who haven’t experienced the kinds of traumas that might inoculate them against some of that fear? You get a perfect storm of longevity obsession.”

When we look closer at the supposedly altruistic goals of “life extension” or “defeating death” we barely scrape the surface before uncovering the primary motivator—greed and the continued accumulation of wealth. 

The billionaire class is on a very real quest to create a new breed of altered humans who will live longer with greater ability to accumulate even more wealth and consolidate even more power. Sean Parker warned at a fundraiser for cancer research that wealth disparity will eventually create a “Class of Immortal Overlords.” He quipped, “Give us billionaires an extra hundred years and you’ll know what … wealth disparity looks like.”

The only correct thought about death that these tech giants have is that death is an enemy. The Christian does not make peace with death. Death is the final enemy to be defeated. 

The difference for believers is that we, unlike Solomon, are certain that death is defeated. (Titus 1.1-3) Death’s sting has no venom for the believer and his victory is as hollow as Jesus’ tomb. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56; Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 25:8) Death which Solomon called “evil” is to us but a door leading the presence of God. 

Death is not kind nor a friend. He is not to be smiled at or joked with. He intends to make us suffer. But like the thief on the cross, if we have the simplest and smallest faith in Christ, on the other side of death we will be embraced by our truest friend, Jesus.

Further Reading:
The Men Who Want to Live Forever — By Dara Horn
Sean Parker Says Wealth Disparity Will Create a ‘Class of Immortal Overlords’ — By Billy Perrigo
Seeking eternal life, Silicon Valley is solving for death — By W. Harry Fortuna

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there is where your heart will be too.” — Luke 12.33-34

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 40 (Listen – 3:50)
Psalms 15-16 (Listen – 2:03)

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.

What post helped you forgive?

https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Read more about Too Much to Hold
Death’s jaws, snake-like, that swallow worlds
Cannot contain their maker
Christ is too sweet to see decay
The monster gets no supper

Wisdom in Houses of Mourning—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Barbara
The April 20th, post on the subject of suffering during this time and during life in general was particularly helpful not only because as seniors we suddenly became isolated even from family but because we were also in the process of grief over a grandchild who died before Christmas. 2 Timothy 3:12 declares that all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer. We have felt “persecution“ through some ordinary circumstances or more dramatic ones throughout. We can do all things as unto the Lord.

Originally published, April 20, 2020, based on readings from Ecclesiastes 7 & 2 Timothy 3.

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 7.2-4
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Proverbs 4.7
Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Hebrews 12.1-2
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…

Reflection: Wisdom in Houses of Mourning—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

What happens when a society addicted to activity, distraction, and consumption has every activity canceled, normal distractions displaced, and consumption disrupted? We mourn.

Solomon tells us that there is more wisdom to be gained in a house of mourning than one of celebrating. In some ways, the homes in which we are sheltering have become houses of mourning. We are certainly mourning the frenetic fantasy of fruitfulness that our former schedules gave us. Our economies, both global and personal, were accelerated and everything else was trimmed out so that we could push harder for greater gain. But were we really gaining in the ways that are important? Did we trim out the wrong things? What can we learn from this unexpected experience of mourning? 

Paul writes that we should throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us to run after Jesus, fixing our eyes on him. But in our previous life, pre-COVID-19, did we ever throw off anything to get closer to Jesus? Did we ever lay aside even one entanglement to grow deeper in faith? Did we fix our eyes more intently on Jesus than on our devices, work tasks, and investment portfolios? Did we strip even one thing out of our lives because it interfered with reading the Bible? Did we cancel even one activity in order to make more time to pray?

For the majority of us, the answers to these questions are probably “no.” Many of us may need to confess that what we tossed aside was Jesus, and the entanglement we escaped was the cords of loving-kindness that God sought to guide us by. We limited Jesus, the Bible, and prayer, to “when we have time” as if time was the issue and not our heart.

What if we learned from what we have lost how valuable what we still have is?
What if we, relieved of the burden of physically running from activity to activity, learned to run after Jesus spiritually?
What if we learned to make time with the most important things the most important time in our day?

I think personally we would be blown away by the tangible presence and power of God in our lives.
I think it would be a revelation.
And I think culturally the world would be blown away by the shockingly beautiful things God would call the church to do in the world.
I think it would be a revolution. 

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
“And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the laborers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to his harvest.’” — Matthew 9.36-37– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 33 (Listen – 4:46)
Psalms 3-4 (Listen – 1:56)

Read more about Convicted by Job’s Righteousness :: A Guided Prayer 
We pray for your forgiveness, Lord, but more than that, we pray that you would change the hearts of the oppressors, and may you begin in our hearts.

What post helped you understand prayer?https://forms.gle/DsYWbj45y9fCDLzi7

Make No Peace With Death

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 9.3-4
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead. 4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

Titus 1.1-3
1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, 3 and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior

Reflection: Make No Peace With Death
By John Tillman

With all his wisdom, Solomon, the teacher, recognized that God had set eternity in the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11) but in some writings seemed to barely hold a glimpse of what God had in mind for humanity in eternity.

Solomon’s conclusion about death is not that dissimilar at times from billionaire tech giants of today (our culture’s definition of “wise men”) who see death as an evil that should be eradicated.

In 2018, Jacob Banas wrote about the cultish obsession of tech giants with longevity and defeating death:

“Traditional religion in the Bay Area is being replaced with…a belief in the power of technology and science to save humanity,” …Combine this…with leaders who are too young to find peace in the concept of death and who haven’t experienced the kinds of traumas that might inoculate them against some of that fear? You get a perfect storm of longevity obsession.”

When we look closer at the supposedly altruistic goals of “life extension” or “defeating death” we barely scrape the surface before uncovering the primary motivator—greed and the continued accumulation of wealth. 

The billionaire class is on a very real quest to create a new breed of altered humans who will live longer with greater ability to accumulate even more wealth and consolidate even more power. Sean Parker warned at a fundraiser for cancer research that wealth disparity will eventually create a “Class of Immortal Overlords.” He quipped, “Give us billionaires an extra hundred years and you’ll know what … wealth disparity looks like.”

The only correct thought about death that these tech giants have is that death is an enemy. The Christian does not make peace with death. Death is the final enemy to be defeated. 

The difference for believers is that we, unlike Solomon, are certain that death is defeated. (Titus 1.1-3) Death’s sting has no venom for the believer and his victory is as hollow as Jesus’ tomb. (1 Corinthians 15:54-56; Hosea 13:14; Isaiah 25:8) Death which Solomon called “evil” is to us but a door leading the presence of God. 

Death is not kind nor a friend. He is not to be smiled at or joked with. He intends to make us suffer. But like the thief on the cross, if we have the simplest and smallest faith in Christ, on the other side of death we will be embraced by our truest friend, Jesus.

Further Reading:
The Men Who Want to Live Forever — By Dara Horn
Sean Parker Says Wealth Disparity Will Create a ‘Class of Immortal Overlords’ — By Billy Perrigo
Seeking eternal life, Silicon Valley is solving for death — By W. Harry Fortuna

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said to the disciples: “In truth I tell you, when everything is made new again and the Son of man is seated on his throne of glory, you yourselves will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children, or land for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times as much, and also inherit eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” — Matthew 19.28-30

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 9 (Listen – 3:13) 
Titus 1 (Listen -2:24)

Read more about Immortality and Resurrection
The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. — N.T. Wright

Read more about Too Much to Hold
In Christ, we’re made to be like him
Too much for Death to hold
Grasped by him for a moment
But he cannot hold our souls


Wisdom in Houses of Mourning

Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 7.2-4
It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.
Frustration is better than laughter,
    because a sad face is good for the heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.

Proverbs 4.7
Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Hebrews 12.1-2
…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…

Reflection: Wisdom in Houses of Mourning
By John Tillman

What happens when a society addicted to activity, distraction, and consumption has every activity canceled, normal distractions displaced, and consumption disrupted? We mourn.

Solomon tells us that there is more wisdom to be gained in a house of mourning than one of celebrating. In some ways, the homes in which we are sheltering have become houses of mourning. We are certainly mourning the frenetic fantasy of fruitfulness that our former schedules gave us. Our economies, both global and personal, were accelerated and everything else was trimmed out so that we could push harder for greater gain. But were we really gaining in the ways that are important? Did we trim out the wrong things? What can we learn from this unexpected experience of mourning? 

Paul writes that we should throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us to run after Jesus, fixing our eyes on him. But in our previous life, pre-COVID-19, did we ever throw off anything to get closer to Jesus? Did we ever lay aside even one entanglement to grow deeper in faith? Did we fix our eyes more intently on Jesus than on our devices, work tasks, and investment portfolios? Did we strip even one thing out of our lives because it interfered with reading the Bible? Did we cancel even one activity in order to make more time to pray?

For the majority of us, the answers to these questions are probably “no.” Many of us may need to confess that what we tossed aside was Jesus, and the entanglement we escaped was the cords of loving-kindness that God sought to guide us by. We limited Jesus, the Bible, and prayer, to “when we have time” as if time was the issue and not our heart.

What if we learned from what we have lost how valuable what we still have is?
What if we, relieved of the burden of physically running from activity to activity, learned to run after Jesus spiritually?
What if we learned to make time with the most important things the most important time in our day?

I think personally we would be blown away by the tangible presence and power of God in our lives.
I think it would be a revelation.
And I think culturally the world would be blown away by the shockingly beautiful things God would call the church to do in the world.
I think it would be a revolution. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. 
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 7 (Listen – 3:37) 
2 Timothy 3 (Listen -2:21)

Read more about Prayer Amidst Evil :: Guided Prayer 
The inevitable next tragedy will come. Whether it is the result of unthinking violence, tragic accident, or premeditated and targeted hatred, we turn to God in prayer…

Read more about Fasting from the Feast
Our culture has steadily, for decades, been encouraging us to abstain from spiritual disciplines in favor of activities that we are led to believe are more profitable.


Philemon’s Speck and Our Log

Scripture: Philemon 15-16
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

Reflection: Philemon’s Speck and Our Log
By John Tillman

Between Philemon’s time and now, many have struggled to live out Paul’s challenge to overcome the cultural mindset of slavery. It has been a struggle uniquely led by Christians.

However, when we look to the past, there is a temptation to sneer. Many modern moralists convince themselves that if they had lived in certain ages, they would have been on the “right side” of history and as a result they treat writers of those ages as hypocrites, refusing to learn from them.

This is foolish, arrogant, and is an attitude that is condemned by Christ himself.

Better that we remove the log in our own eye rather than seek to remove the speck from the eye of some deceased writer in another age.

In our own time, Paul’s challenge to Philemon is still applicable. Slavery may not be sociologically acceptable anymore, but it is still economically viable and, as a criminal enterprise, is alive and well. The United Nations estimates that over 89 million people are currently or have been enslaved in the past five years.

And though we may not have slaves, all of us have servants. Even those without in-home staff such as maids, butlers, chefs, or nannies, have an entire service industry taking care of everything we might need. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projected that by 2018 over 131 million people would be working in the service industries.

Our food is prepared for us, our coffee is customized for us, our packages are delivered for us, by servants. Yet our society denigrates manual labor of all kinds, and especially labor in the service industries.

We denigrate and look down on service so much that we use service jobs as a way to scare better grades into our kids. Service jobs are the stick that spurs youth toward the carrot of a better job after incurring massive debt attending college.

Our existence is supported by the labor of people who directly or indirectly serve us, just as Onesimus served Philemon. How we treat those individuals—both relationally and economically—shows whether we consider them part of the economic machinery or spiritual brothers and sisters.

Prayer: The Greeting
Your statutes have been like songs to me wherever I have lived as a stranger. — Psalm 119.54

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 12 (Listen – 2:38)
Philemon
 (Listen – 2:52)

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