Every day heartbreaking pictures leak out of the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol. Just a few months ago it was a beautiful urban destination, full of culture and life. But now the evil of war has turned it into a skeleton of rubble and death; now the birthplace to generations of trauma.
It’s just another reminder that our tomorrows are a fragile gift.
my modelling career
I began modelling a few years ago. No, not in front of a camera … I mean the other kind of modelling where you assemble and paint cars, planes, ships, etc. from plastic or wood. It was something I did back in my teens but it wasn’t until four years ago that I resurrected the hobby when I built a 1969 Camaro in the style and colour of my first car. Since then I’ve upped my game with an assortment of more challenging kits.
For awhile now I have been dreaming about something more challenging – an aircraft carrier in 1/350 scale. There are complications with a project like this: 1) it’s more expensive; 2) it will take much longer to complete; 3) it will need a large display space because it is roughly the size of a four-year old child.
So I sat for quite awhile staring at the ‘purchase’ button on the page of the hobby site. As I sat there, I considered a reasonable course of action. I decided, I’ll wait – it can be a future project. I’ll do it later.
But almost immediately my mind rebelled and I thought: When, exactly, is later? I’m sixty-six years old and there are fewer ‘laters’ for me than ever before. I have no idea if I even have a later.
In that moment I became keenly aware of my place; my time; my limits; my mortality. I considered both the blessing and brevity of my life when I realized today was the only ‘later’ I was assured of.
Self awareness is a gift that can be ignored or cultivated.
Jesus’ disciples couldn’t have known how the story would play out. How could they? What rational person could imagine the absurd, horrific, supernatural, exultant events that would play out over the next days?
Jesus had become a legend and large crowds of people saw him as their hope for liberation. His own disciples had believed him; had witnessed his miraculous life and teachings; had sworn to follow him into death. But he died.
The story tells us about Jesus’ naked, battered body finally hung on a Roman cross in company with the crucifixion of two criminals nearby. According to tradition the unrepentant one was named Gestas and the other was known as Dismas. Luke drops their final moments into his abbreviated version of the events in chapter 23 (vv 39-43):
“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'”
Puzzling, isn’t it?
Imminent death, yet two radically diverse choices.
Gestas wasn’t very self-aware. He wouldn’t consider what was at stake; couldn’t respect his own mortality; refused to take responsibility for his circumstances. He pushed Jesus to give him more tomorrows so he could continue living more yesterdays.
However Dismas was very self-aware. He understood his responsibility and accepted his mortality. All he could hope for was a sliver of mercy.
To Gestas, Jesus was a facilitator.
To Dismas, Jesus was a saviour.
It is an especially bad look when people are more self-righteous than self-aware.
Gestas demonstrated what many of us have already learned – guilt is easy. But notice the difficult requirement for Dismas’ entry into paradise … honesty.
He didn’t have to endure a guilt-inducing sermon or preacher. There was no church, no hymn, no donation, no altar. He hadn’t been taught sound doctrine or systematic theology. There was no baptism and no prayer.
Jesus’ presence converted honesty into mercy.
It’s a valuable formula for us to keep in the back of our minds. Be very wary of those who are more skilled at guilt and condemnation and pay more attention to those who excel at love and mercy.
As Dante Stewart recently said, “Christian faith would be much healthier and healing if we didn’t see our faith as a way of winning arguments but a way of liberating and loving people.”
To us, Mondays are drab. But imagine awakening the morning after a resurrection! I’m guessing Jesus’ disciples didn’t sleep much that first night after witnessing the impossible.
They understood their mortality better than ever before yet they couldn’t wait to discover how a bold, new kind of Monday would feel. A Monday where death was no longer dangerous. A Monday where life could be meaningful and full. A Monday of honesty and mercy.
Be honest – have you been reminded lately of your mortality? How many more ‘laters’ do you have? Are your days mired in the law of guilt or do they soar in the joy of mercy?
This is your reminder that every day of your life is the day after Resurrection.
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Image by Pixabay