Presumption or Promise?
Setting Sail on a Foggy Morning in Stonington, Maine
A quintessential, summer morning sail along the Maine coast includes lobster boats and pots, wharf smells and screeching gulls, lifting fog and salty breeze filling hoisting sails, and a sense of uncertainty and adventure as one heads for open seas.
In her poem “As if the Sea should part”, Emily Dickinson likened the mystery of infinity and the uncertainty of eternity to sailing into a series of unending seas…
As if the Sea should part
And show a further Sea —
And that — a further — and the Three
But a presumption be —
Of Periods of Seas —
Unvisited of Shores —
Themselves the Verge of Seas to be-
Thoughts of eternity can be daunting because death is scary and the afterlife holds uncertainties. We may wonder if “eternity” is a concoction of anxious minds and mere speculation. Fortunately, history presents us with a credible witness who has sailed beyond life’s horizon and returned. Christ’s very existence, his miraculous interactions, teachings, parables, claims and most importantly his bodily resurrection from the dead draw our attention to the reality of the afterlife of which he spoke often. If Jesus is credible, we should listen to his concerns not only for the spiritual well being of mankind in this earthly life but also for a future time. He specifically expressed that to Nicodemus in some of the most quoted words in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Standing at Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus reassured his sister, Martha, that he was ” the resurrection and the life” and proclaimed, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26) Then he miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead, thus giving all those present reason to believe that through faith their spirits could live with God forever!
Even during his incredibly brutal crucifixion, Jesus lovingly and confidently comforted the dying thief on an adjacent cross that they would be together in paradise that very day after he confessed belief in Jesus. (Luke 23:39-4)
Christ often both warned and comforted his disciples regarding future events when teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. He spoke of angels and end times and of ultimate joy but also of eternal separation of the faithful from the faithless and the faithless from God. He illustrated final judgment with a story about dividing sheep from goats. However, on the eve of his crucifixion, he gave encouragement, reassuring them that he had come into the world from “the Father” and was “leaving the world and going to the Father” but would return for them. His final words uplifted them with a proclamation of his eternal presence. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 24, John 16) (Matthew 7:19-23), (Matthew 13)(John 16:28)(John 14:2-3(Matthew 28:18-20)
Despite the mysteries ahead, we have reliable information and directions. With confident expectation, we can advance into that unexperienced, hazy territory with hoisted sails of faith in the One familiar with the way. We have promises not presumptions!