Mercury Register Oct 2013

Published in Oroville Mercury-Register on October 19, 2013

One Hundred Things to Do Before You Die

A few summers ago I was listening to the car radio and I heard a really intriguing piece of news. It was about a man named Dave Freeman who wrote a book entitled: “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” That sounded like an interesting book title. But what caught my attention in the report was the fact that he had died. The reporter said: “‘100 Things’ was one of the first contemporary books to create a travel agenda based on 100 sites and then market it with a title that reminded mortal readers that time was limited.”

I started wondering – well, did he do the 100 things he most wanted to do? Later I read an article about the story and I was surprised. He didn’t die in his 80s or 70s or even 60s as I expected to learn. He was 47 years old when he died. Then I thought maybe he died in the middle of some far flung adventure, like hang gliding in the mountains or running with the bulls in Pamplona. No – he fell at home and hit his head and died.

I’m sure Dave Freeman didn’t expect to die at 47. And I wondered about that list. If you do all the things on your bucket list, then are you ready to die? Or does the list just get longer? And is that really the measure of a life – whether or not you got to see the pyramids and the Taj Mahal? And I thought is there anything on that list that has to do with God or is it just sightseeing? Go visit 100 marvelous places and then die sounds kind of shallow.

The author of Psalm 90 says that our days are like grass: “In the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” We know that human life is frail and fleeting. Our days are soon gone, and we fly away. Sometimes we may feel that way. We think – where has the time gone? It was just yesterday that I graduated from high school. It was just yesterday that we moved into our new home. It was just yesterday that our child went off to college.

I think the only part of the book, “100 Things to Do Before You Die,” that gets it right is the part about death. That’s the one sure thing on the list, whether you make it to the other 100 things or not. The old joke says that there are two things we can’t escape – death and taxes. And that statement is more true now than ever. George Bernard Shaw wrote: “The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die.”

Death is not an easy subject to broach. It makes us feel uneasy. It’s the kind of thing we avoid thinking about if we can. The subject of death is not just a philosophical or theological problem. It’s also personal. It’s something we all have to wrestle with. Dag Hammarskjold wrote: “In the last analysis, it is our conception of death which decides our answers to all the questions that life puts to us.”

In John 11, just before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he spoke to Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus’ answer to Martha’s grieving question was radical and life-giving. Jesus didn’t simply say he would give resurrection and life. He said: “I am the resurrection and the life.” What Jesus brings to Lazarus and his sisters is not just a promise of a future good. When a person puts his or her trust in Jesus Christ they experience new life. The life that we will have with God in glory and splendor is even now germinating inside of us through faith in Jesus Christ. It may be a little like how the acorn is to the mighty oak tree, but it has begun. And therefore death no longer has dominion over us. Yes, we will die; everyone will. But we will never stop living. Because of Jesus Christ, death will not have the last word on life.

Rev. Dr. Stan Henderson is the Pastor of the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Oroville

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