From the Bishop: Life: a renewable resource?

wind combine

What about life – is life a “renewable resource”? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think.

The Scriptures are full of examples of renewal. Isaiah reassures the returning exiles that “those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength…” (Isa. 40:31a). Jesus replies to Peter’s question about where Jesus’ disciples will finally be, with these words: “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory,…” and continues to describe a vision of their place in the next life. (Matt. 19:28)

St Paul captures our essence as a renewable resource most clearly. “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor. 4:16)

In the contemporary world in which we live, we are increasingly being confronted by admonitions to recycle. As we struggle with the environmental impact of burning fuels to power our manufacturing industry, move our vehicles and heat our homes, we are increasingly challenged to find sources of renewable energy.

When we use this label we’re referring to sources of energy that are not, in effect, used up when they are tapped. Wind energy would be such an example. While there is clearly a transfer of energy from the passing wind to the rotating blades of a wind turbine, the pool of energy in the wind is so vast, and the amount of energy transferred so minuscule, that it is appropriate to speak of the wind as a renewable source of energy.

What about life – is life a “renewable resource”? The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Animal life forms seem to be born, live for a specified length of time which varies somewhat with the genetic and lifestyle health of the individual, and eventually die.

What about plants? As we stare outside at the “white mountains” covering our lawns and gardens, what about the perennial plants and grasses that are buried underneath? They certainly appear to have died, and yet three months from now renewed life will spring up from those apparently dead roots and stems.

Of course, there are also annuals which we plant each year, enjoy for a season, and then either let die in the fall, or pull up ourselves to dump them on the compost heap.

What about you? Are you an “annual” or a “perennial?”

What about you? Are you an “annual” or a “perennial?” Before you rush to answer, consider the words of the 20th century American novelist, Dean Koontz, who had a character in his novel The Husband make this remark: “A man begins dying at the moment of his birth.”

Clearly, this is the “annual” view of human life – and a pessimistic one at that. And yet, on one level the statement is absolutely true. That newborn baby, once outside of its mother’s womb, begins a life trajectory that will ultimately end in death. In fact, as disciples of Jesus Christ, not only would we acknowledge that this was true for Jesus, we would even go further and say all of his words and actions, at least from his time of public ministry, directly and indirectly contributed to his demise in death by crucifixion.

But it did not end there. In the power of the Holy Spirit, God raised Jesus from the dead. And in so doing, God demonstrated unequivocally that humanity is a renewable resource – and a precious one at that. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the ultimate example of this renewal, but it is pre-figured in all sorts of ways in Jesus’ teaching and earthly ministry.

Our lives are full of “little deaths” – they are, in fact, part of the process of our renewal.

Jesus renews peoples’ physical health – their hearing, seeing, and mobility. He renews their God-given spirit by freeing them from the dark oppression of evil power. While it is true that each of these transitional renewals ultimately succumbs to death in the end, they serve as types or figures of the renewal of life over death that we will inherit because of God’s gift of Jesus. Our lives are full of “little deaths” – they are, in fact, part of the process of our renewal. (Think of the “death” you went through when you gave up childhood and went through puberty.)

In this Rupert’s Land News edition, there are other depictions of renewal.

The building that houses St Matthew, Winnipeg, worshipping community is being renewed. There are signs of the death of what has been, and there are the renewal signs of new life – both in the physical structure and in the people. Will either the worship space, or the congregation be here in ten years? Maybe. But that does not change the reality of the renewal taking place.

Several Christian communities in eastern Manitoba are exploring new ways of supporting ministry together in the area north of Beausejour. Will their strategies guarantee their presence twenty years from now? Maybe. But that does not change the renewal and sense of new life they’re experiencing now.

As you discover and experience God’s call to renewal in your life in this New Year, reach out and grasp the new life, the new challenges, the new joys. For ultimately you are a renewable resource – one that even physical death cannot ultimately extinguish.