Anaheim SDA Church
Mid-week Pastor’s Update
September 22nd, 2021
“[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
I remember when I was a kid, my mom’s usual pattern was to go grocery shopping on Sunday mornings. I often went with her, because if I did, I could pick my cereal for the week (as long as it wasn’t too sugary 😊 ). We would usually go to a “Lucky” store a couple of miles away from our house. It was fine, but, nothing special.
But then: they opened a NEW “Lucky” store a couple of miles away from our house in another direction, and this one was sparkling new and advanced! It had cool architecture and lighting, and I remember being awed in the produce section by seeing automatic mist sprayers for the first time: they would moisten the vegetables periodically.
The coolest thing for me, though, was that in the front left corner of the store, they also had a movie/video game rental area, you could rent these things in the store! My mom would let me rent one thing most weeks. So, for years of my youth, my time Sunday mornings was evenly spent in the cereal aisle, and the tech rental section, eagerly anticipating my week. 😊
Then I got older and went to college, and my mom kept shopping at the same store (without me). I remember I’d drive by it occasionally, but it didn’t seem new or exciting any more. In fact, it kind of got to looking run-down and dilapidated. My mom started going to a different store, because the neighborhood it was in didn’t seem so safe anymore.
Then, the grocery store closed-up entirely, and it became a big blank spot in a strip mall. For a while the spot was open again as a used book store, then as a seasonal Halloween store, then just boarded-up. Eventually, probably around 2010, they bulldozed the whole strip mall area and built something else there.
I still occasionally get called a “young man” (increasingly rarely :-p, but I am by no means old!). So it’s strange to me how I could see a shiny new grocery store and strip mall turn average, then old, then destroyed and gone, while still being relatively ‘young’ myself. It shows that our timeline is very different than it is for other things.
We live way longer than dogs or cats, and, indeed, longer than 99% of animal species. Upon doing a little bit of internet research, I found that only tortoises and a handful of sea creatures live longer than we do. And our time is short compared to lifespans in the Bible!
It’s strange: in our lifetimes, we see animals and buildings rise, age, and fall. We see societies boom and bust. We see forms of technology come and go. Yet we still want more: we say “life is short!”. We lament how people ‘died too young’ despite having decades under their belts.
To me this is all encompassed in that mysterious but brief phrase that King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “God has put eternity in the hearts of man.” What does this mean? While some might think it an Old Testament hint to the (misguided) Christian belief in immediate and eternal life after death, I think it’s much more something along the lines of We never feel we’ve lived long enough. We always want more. We always aspire to do and see more things.
I firmly believe that the only resolution to this perpetual longing of feeling that life is short (despite its being long) is to put it in perspective of eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom, which will be gifted us by Jesus Christ on Resurrection Day. Only then will our bodies and our heart desires line-up!
There’s a place in Isaiah where it says “their days will be like a tree” (65:22). This is, correctly this time, a glimpse into future eternal life with God from a finite standpoint. In the ancient world, trees’ lifespans must’ve seemed practically endless: though people were of course familiar with the sight of a dead tree due to drought or injury, an old man could go to a place he knew as a boy, and look up at the limbs of a perfectly healthy tree he used to climb on in his boyhood. “This is what life with me will be like” God is Saying through Isaiah.
I pray that we will truly appreciate the time God has given us: the days which accumulate into weeks, months, years, and decades. I pray we wouldn’t waste the time, because it is precious, and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. But above all I pray that we would utilize the accumulation of time into worthy pursuits: investing in relationships, in knowledge, in beauty, in truth and purity. Truly a lot of good can be done over a lifetime, or a lot of pointless damage.
I close with the opening verses of Psalm chapter 1:
“Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.”
May God bless you all the remainder of this week and beyond.
Pr. Mark Tatum