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Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Pitch for the Angels

   Remember those episodes of "The Twilight Zone"?  Rod Serling would come out, like he was a inky mist becoming human, and talk about life, death, reality, the unknown.  I got my fear of manikins thanks to "The Twilight Zone".  I don't care how stupid or how much of a smart-alec they act like...Charlie McCarthy freaks me out!  I know one's waiting for me under the bed.  Thanks a lot, Rod.

   There was one episode that really appealed to me, though.  Lou Bookman (Ed Wynn) came on as a pitchman.  Calling out to customer's on the corner to buy silk thread brought across the seas by pigeons.    Pocket watches, hairpins, small dolls for girls.  Even ties.  And he was dearly loved by the children.  Always had a toy to hand out on his way home.

   But Lou's time was up.  Mr. Death came walking by one day to pick him up.  Sleek, black hair.  Clean white shirt and tie.  Death knew his mark and was dressed nicely for it.  Lou begs him and tries to bargain with him in every possible way.  He cons Death to allow him to live until he makes a "pitch for the angels".  But Death isn't fooled.  Since he can't have Lou, he arranges to take the life of a 9 year-old child - one who Lou knew well.  But Lou won't let that happen.  To distract Death and prevent him from taking the life of the girl, Lou starts whealing and dealing.  He begins to woo Death, to sell him trinkets and commodities from his suitcase.  Death begins to covet every item Lou sets before him, especially ties!  And in the end...

   Well, I can't give it away, can I?  You'll just have to watch the episode for yourself.  Wow!  Did you really think I'd give the ending away?

   I think many of us are aware of our death.  I'm not saying that we're necessarily ready for it.  I'm sure a number of us have plans we want to accomplish before "leaving".  Travel to other countries.  Patch up that relationship with Mom or Dad.  Make sure that garden's maintained and healthy.  Many of us have accepted the fact of death, even though we're never completely ready when the time to comes.

   But it's a little different when it comes to the ones we love.

   I'd do anything for my children and wife.  If anything tried to harm them...I'm ready to sacrifice my life for them.  We have difficulty accepting it when something happens to the ones we love.  Our father contracting cancer.  Our 4 year-old niece being hit by a car.  A close friend losing his job, his wife, his car in the same week.  It's not that we feel we own that person.  We just feel connected to them so strongly that if something happens to them, or when they're taken from us...well, it's like tearing a part of us away, too.  I sat for two hours with a friend who had a brain tumor and couldn't talk.  He would just point and nod his head to communicate.  It was difficult being close to him and seeing what was happening.  Knowing what was coming.  You and I shake our heads and say, "If God were real, He would have..."  And many of us are left with a feeling that we're owed an explanation.  That someone has to answer up to our loss.  And that someone is usually God.  If He were in control...if He really was as powerful as the bible claims...if He truly loved me...

   The truth is, regardless of whether it's me or the ones I love, we each have an appointment with death.  Jesus was no stranger to death.  He knew when his time was up.  "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again."  He tried to prepare His disciples for three years.

   Then one day, Jesus' friend Lazarus got sick.  It would only would have taken a few hours to travel and heal Lazarus from where Jesus was.  But he took four days to get there.  His purpose in taking extra time was to show something about himself.  During that trip Lazarus died. 

   When he finally did arrive, Jesus was met by two grieving sisters, Mary and Martha.  Martha, knowing who Jesus was, stated plainly, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."  She added that she was sure that her brother will rise up again one day.   Jesus' reply must have thrown her off. "I am the resurrection and the the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."  In the face of death, Jesus was claiming something about himself that gave Martha a gift that she could hold onto...hope.

   Martha's sister, Mary, fell at his feet and exclaimed, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."  Jesus ended up crying.

There are some things that I've concluded about death:

1. Death was never meant to be.  The whole bible begins with God creating everything.  Bringing life.  He created us humans to experience His love and have a beautiful relationship with Him, a relationship that's different than anything we could experience.  But we blew it.  Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, everything changed.  Sin and death came into the world.

2. Death isn't part of life.  Death is death.  There are poets and people out there that romanticize death.  I think they do that because of how terrible death really is and they try to make the inevitable easier to handle. But death can be frightening.  A lot of people don't know what's on the other side.  And that is scary.  For others, death is a relief from the pain they experienced in life.  The liver cancer.  Living on the street.  Even old age.

3. Jesus cried.  God hates death.  Mainly because He's life.  The bible states that one day, God will toss death, sin and the devil into one long-lasting BBQ.  Jesus' promise to those who trust in him is life.  "Anyone who drinks of the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

   When it came to Lazarus' death, Jesus was in control.  He had the stone rolled away from Lazarus' grave then called him out.  Lazarus came out in all his bandages and smelling...well...pretty bad.  But Jesus raised him from the dead.  He had the power to do it.  Plus, he had the love.

   Did you ever connect with someone who, every time you got together with them, lifted you up?  Someone who's approach to life was so motivating and free that you couldn't get enough of them?  Jesus is like that, and more.  In getting close to him...close to life...it's like drinking from a well of living water.  And he wants to give that to you.  He loves you personally.  "Whoever lives and believes in me will never die."  That's a promise of continued life that God will follow through with.  Yes, death will still come, but the sting of death has been taken out.  The finality of death would no longer hangs over your head.  There's hope.

   Do you want to know that life?  It's not something that starts after death, but starts now.  It's not just a "pitch for the angels", but for you personally.  Jesus' promise to you is that you can have that stream of living water flow through your heart now if you would only believe.  And that life continues now through to... forever.  Eternal life is not a place or a thing, but a person.  It's knowing God one-on-one.  And that's possible.  It just takes you reaching out and taking the nail-scared hand of the one who gave up his own life so that you can have life.  Jesus died on the cross so you could know life that never ends.  If you want that life, take a moment to confess your sins to God.  Ask Him to forgive you.  Then ask Him to fill you with His spirit so that you can have that living water.  If you draw near to Him, He will draw near to you.  His promise to you is binding, and so is His love.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life."

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