A Very Good Friday

A magazine like this is not a newspaper. We need to work well in advance. We had planned in this issue to bring you news from the flooded areas of Australia. As I was putting the finishing touches to the content, we got news of the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. I was able to squeeze in a short feature about that.

Then, with the issue well and truly in the final stages of preparation for the printer, northeastern Japan was devastated by an earthquake that was 8000 times stronger than New Zealand’s, followed by a tsunami that, although not as extensive as the Australian floods, was far more destructive. And just this morning, news of another quake in Myanmar. We were, once again, able to make some last-minute adjustments. I hope and pray that nothing else will happen between now and when you receive this issue to make it seem out of date. 2011 has given us enough to worry about already, and it is only mid-March.

I know death is part of life, but times like these really make us think about all its implications.

I always knew that this year would bring a sobering reminder of my own mortality—that’s because I turn 70 on April 22. But I didn’t anticipate so much disaster in so many places to underscore it. Like all of us, I know death is part of life, but at times like these, it really makes us think about death and all its implications.

To reach the age of 70 is sobering in itself. The 90th psalm reminds us that “we live for seventy years or so,” adding that “with luck we might make it to eighty” (Psalm 90:10-11, Message Bible). For most of human history you needed luck, a lot of it, to even get to 70. Today, getting to 80 is no longer unusual, at least in developed countries. My doctor says I am in pretty good shape, so I am not quite ready to ask the family to gather, or prepare some famous last words.

I used to think to be 70 was really old. I can remember when I thought 40 was quite venerable. Now my children are that age, and they still seem like my “kids.” Nevertheless, to reach 70 puts life into a sober new perspective. According to the Bible, on April 22 I officially arrive in the departure lounge, even if it looks like the flight has been delayed.

But it was not until I looked at my 2011 diary that I noticed with some surprise that my 70th birthday coincides with Good Friday, the day when most Christians commemorate the death of Jesus. The coincidence was both interesting and reassuring. Jesus’ death and resurrection, of course, altered everything. For one thing, it completely redefined death. Death can still take us, but it can no longer hold onto us, because the Son of God took death into himself and destroyed it, 2 Timothy 1:10 tells us, making it the pathway into his resurrection and life.

The words, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” take on a fresh significance when your 70th birthday coincides with Good Friday, just as announcements in the departure lounge hold the attention of those waiting for the plane.

Interestingly, April 22 is also Earth Day.1 Earth Day is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s natural environment. For Christians, it is a reminder that we are stewards of creation, commanded by God to take care of the things around us. We haven’t done a very good job, and the environment is showing signs of our mismanagement. But once again God has not abandoned us. It is fitting that Earth Day and Good Friday should coincide. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).

One way or another, April 22, 2011, is a reminder that there even amid death and destruction there is good news, not just for this newbie septuagenarian, but for everyone and everything.

John Halford, 2011

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