Jan 9, 2014

Death and new life in the new year

New Year/Naming of Jesus
Attendance at our January 1, 2014 service of morning prayer.
We began 2014 with the service of morning prayer on January 1, celebrating the circumcision and naming of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verse 21. Also we reflected on Joshua 24:14-24 as a basis for renewed dedication to walking with the Lord in the new year.
Javier Mirabal

On January 2, we learned of the death of Javier Mirabal. The 38-year-old man had been hospitalized with an infection, but appeared to be recovering. He was not a communicant member of our mission, but rather of another "evangelical" church (in Venezuela, the word "evangelical" refers to almost any congregation that is not Roman Catholic). Nevertheless he was a great friend and supporter of our mission and in 2007 had stood up as a sponsor at the baptism of one of our members, Jimmy Perez. Javier was a schoolteacher and the only member of his family to earn a university degree. He enjoyed passing out tracts provided by "Cristo Para Todas Las Naciones" (the Spanish arm of Lutheran Hour Ministries). A respected and well-liked young man, his family's misfortune moved the entire community and his funeral drew a remarkable number of guests. We had prayed for Javier's health on January 1, and remembered the family in our prayers in our celebration of the Epiphany on Sunday, January 5.

The following week, the death of Monica Spear, former Miss Venezuela and actress, garnered international headlines. On Monday, January 6, she and her husband, Henry Thomas Berry, were murdered on the highway near Puerto Cabello, Venezuela's main seaport. The couple’s car reportedly broke down and they resisted a robbery which occurred while they were awaiting a tow truck. Their five-year-old daughter was with them and lived to tell of the crime. The couple had been separated for a year and a half, but were in the process of reconciliation. They had celebrated with a trip to the Venezuelan Andes and were on their way back to Caracas.

Their deaths rocked the entire nation and led to a historic summit between opposing political factions in this deeply divided country on resolving the problem of Venezuela's level of violent crime, one of the highest in the world.

 In Job 14:1-6 , Job cries to the Lord , "Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.  And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day."
 It was a deep cry of misery for the universal sinfulness of the human race , which brings the judgment of God upon us all. Rich or poor, famous or unknown, we all must face the hour of our death. Even though we might think we have years of life ahead of us, we have no guarantee that the end might not be upon us this very day.

Yet for all that life is short and fragile, it is not with sadness that we say , God has put limits on our time here. St. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, " Nor , brothers , do we want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep , lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus . "
 Many people think that there is no existence beyond this earthly life , so we must enjoy as many of the good things of this life as we can. This is the path of greed and envy because we can never have enough of the good things of this world. This lifestyle leaves us feeling empty , because we know the purpose of life is more than being born , competing so we can acquire what we can and then die . We know that we were created to live as children of God , in communion with Him.  For those that believe in Him, there is the promise of eternal life in Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ says that Christ has fulfilled the will of God in our place, also suffered the punishment for our sins in our place, so that on the Day of Judgment when we must give account of our lives, no matter the duration, we will escape the wrath of God by being clothed with the righteousness of Christ. and not have to worry about our short-term destiny, because God has decreed our long-term destiny: eternal life with Christ. Amen.
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