And there He Was. . . Gone

July 3, 2011

No Ordinary Family 2 Enoch
Every story has a beginning and this story has a strange beginning.  In most of the stories that are told in Hebrews 11 there are some really neat things happening, nations begin, arks are built, people are rescued.  But listen again to the scripture that was read earlier  Hebrews 11:5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—”he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.
That sounds like something out of x-files.  “Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying.”  You might say “there he was and there he was, gone.”  Taken up to heaven without dying.  That is so cool and it’s even cooler in the King James Version because it reads Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.   Enoch was translated.  I’ve had my words translated, and we all know what that means.  You speak using words from one language and they are repeated in a different language.  One night on my first trip to Africa my friend Nick Graham spoke in English his words were translated into a second language and then another person translated them into a third language. 
 So we know that when you translate a language the message remains the same but the words used are different.  In the original language the word used meant “To change, or to turn”  And another friend of mine H.C. Wilson, who gives oversight to the Wesleyan Church worldwide has referred on some occasions to translators as “Word Turners”
So Enoch was changed, he was turned from one thing into another thing, while the essence of who he was remained the same. And we don’t know how, not at all.  And if anyone tells you they know how it happened they are bluffing. 
But it is a neat concept.  When I was trying to figure out what happened and how it happened this is what came to mind  (scene from Disney’s Cinderella).  The essence of who Cinderella was remained the same but she had been changed and translated. 
Quite a number of years ago now Joe Diffie had a song called “Prop me up beside the Juke Box When I’m Gone.”    And that’s why I love country music.  And in the song there is a line that says “I’m not afraid of dying it’s the thought of being dead.”  But for most of us it is the opposite, we’re not afraid of being dead it’s the thought of dying and not knowing what that will look like. 
And I don’t think I’m alone in that four hundred years ago Francis Bacon wrote “I do not believe that any man fears to be dead, but only the stroke of death.”  And forty years ago Woody Allen said virtually the same thing “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
And probably if most of us were honest here today we would admit to the same thing.  That we have the assurance of an eternity with God, but we aren’t really looking forward to the journey.  It’s like travelling with Angela, she wants to be wherever it is we are going but she hates to fly and doesn’t look forward to that part of the trip. 
If we could be assured of the transition and that it would be peaceful, then perhaps we could say with Samuel Butler “To die is but to leave off dying and do the thing once for all.”  Or Joyce Cary who said “I look upon life as a gift from God. I did nothing to earn it. Now that the time is coming to give it back, I have no right to complain.”
I love the bumper sticker that says “I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather, not screaming like the passengers in his car.”
But we don’t get that choice; most of us won’t get to pick how we are going to go.   
So what do we know about Enoch?  Not much.  He is mentioned three times in the New Testament, here in Hebrews.  In the book of Luke he is mentioned in the genealogy of Christ and there is a brief and obscure reference to a prophecy of his in the book of Jude.  There is almost as much written about him in the 2 verses in Hebrews 11 as there was in the original story where we read in  Genesis 5:21-23 When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch lived in close fellowship with God for another 300 years, and he had other sons and daughters. Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.
Now some of you have fixated on the fact that Enoch lived 365 years and you are stuck there.  And you are thinking “365 years that is impossible, how can I believe that bible when it makes statements like that?”   You know I don’t have a problem with that.  Some people have said that it was just a different way of counting they used back then.  I tried that different way of counting when I was taking math in school, didn’t work out so good for me. 
But you know I’m quite content to say “ok, he live 365 years, let’s move on.” Because it wasn’t even that long in the big scheme of things back then, the bible tells us that Enoch’s son Methuselah lived for 969 years.  Enoch was just middle aged when he was translated. 
And I wouldn’t worry too much about not living that long Mark Twain got it right when he said “Methuselah lived to be 969 years old . You boys and girls will see more in the next fifty years than Methuselah saw in his whole lifetime.”  And if that was true over a hundred years ago think of how more you will see today.
My theory, if you are interested in it, is that when humanity was that close to creation it wouldn’t have been unusual for people to live that long.  Have you ever made a copy of a copy of a copy?  Starts to get a little fuzzy doesn’t it?   Every step away from the original means that the copy gets a little less crisp and clear.  If we believe the bible account then Enoch was only six copies from the original.   
But really what does it matter to you?  You probably won’t live to be 365 years old.  If you are lucky you won’t have a child at 65 and you probably won’t be translated.  Although in saying that you understand that we believe that Christ will return, that is part of the promise that we are given in the bible, and here is another part of that promise.  1 Corinthians 15:51-52 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.   Sure sounds like what happened to Enoch.  But that is a whole different sermon.
Today I want to focus on what we can learn about living and dying from Enoch.
Genesis 5:18 When Jared was 162 years old, he became the father of Enoch.  1)  We have been born to live Sounds kind of redundant doesn’t it?  Of course we’ve been born to live, if we weren’t born we wouldn’t be living would we?  And yet the truth of the matter is this:  Many many people in our world today walk, talk and breath but they aren’t really alive they’re just taking up space.  Life offers them nothing, it has become a drudgery and they are simply going through the motions.  That isn’t what Christ had in mind when He told us in John 10:10 My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.   That promise might be 2000 years old but it is as valid and fresh today as it was 2000 years ago when Jesus made it to his disciples on that bright Palestinian afternoon. 
The problem is that trying to explain abundant life to someone who hasn’t got it is like watching an ad for a 60 inch HD TV on your 12 inch black and white, oh yes I can see the difference now. 
Christ didn’t come that we could live life half-heartedly, his intent was that we would live it wholeheartedly.  Life is meant to be lived on the very edge of expectancy.
a) We need to recognize that we have something to offer to life.  I think that one of the saddest things that I see on a day to day basis are people who are just putting in time.  They’re just here.  I mean they are here, they go to work and raise a family but the overriding goal of each day is simply to make it through to the next day.  They lay absolutely nothing on the line, never take any risks, never put anything back into life.
There are too many people out there who are like the servant that Jesus told us about in Matthew chapter 25 do you know the story?  A wealthy man split up his wealth amongst his servants and told them to invest it, the first two doubled what they had but the third was afraid that he would lose it so he buried his money in the back yard and simply gave it back to the boss intact, needless to say the boss wasn’t really impressed. 
But there are people out there just like that, they really don’t want what they were given so they figure that if they can hide it they can give it back later but that’s not the way it works.  It’s easy to get into the mindset that says “As long as everything’s all right why put ourselves out?”  Hey, even a dead fish can drift downstream; it takes some fight to make it against the flow.
I truly believe that even though we may never be a Da Vinci or Rembrandt, may never be a Martin Luther King or Mother Theresa that we were each put on this world to make a difference.  We can help make an impact on our world, but only if we want to.
b) We need to recognise that we are here to enjoy life.  Sometimes it is hard to find time in our hectic lifestyles to stop and laugh.  Be honest when was the last time that you giggled, snickered or had a good belly laugh?  It has been clinically proven that people who laugh live longer.  They used to say that married men lived longer then single men but my Dad told me that it just seemed longer. 
Remember King Solomon, he was King David’s son, considered by many to be one of the wisest men who ever lived, wrote the book of Proverbs well one of those proverbs say  Proverbs 17:22 A cheerful heart is good medicine.   There are many things in life that I won’t regret doing, and a good portion of those were the fun things I’ve done with my family and friends.  Very few people will say on their death bed, “Darn I wish I had of enjoyed life less”
The stereotype Christian was probably summed up best by Mark Twain who described an acquaintance as “a solemn, unsmiling, sanctimonious old iceberg who looked as if he was waiting for a vacancy on the trinity.”   You know how Christians are viewed as dull and boring and solemn, never smiling, never laughing,  But I don’t think that was what Christ had in mind.
Too often we fail to recognize that Christ had a sense of humour.  Really it would be very difficult to keep a straight face well using metaphors of camels leaping through the eyes of needles, and people with huge beams trying carefully very carefully to remove a splinter from someone else’s eye.  “Hold on, I’ve almost got it” and wham he belts his friend in the head with the beam again.  Let alone the thought of someone who is very careful to strain the little bitty gnat from their drink, being careful to remove and discard it and then that same person unknowingly and unwittingly swallowing a huge hairy two hump camel.  Now there’s a serious thought.  I figure that God must have a sense of humour, after all he created me, what are you laughing at?  He created you too.
c) We Need to recognise that we have a responsibility to do our very best.  Luke 21:1-4 While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”
If you were brought up in the church you might remember that they used to talk about the widow putting two mites in the offering, I have a friend who said as a child he could never understand why the lady would put two mice in the box.
We need to recognise that this story is not a financial statement but instead is an attitude statement.  It easy to see how little the widow gave without realizing how much the widow gave.  We gotta realize that she didn’t simply give two very small copper coins she gave everything she had.  When we give to God it should cost something, I have often said that we don’t need equal giving but equal sacrifice, after all a lot of other people could have given the two coins and it would have just been pocket change, for them to have matched her sacrifice they would have had to dig a lot deeper.  But it’s not just money, you know what they saying is “When they say it’s not the money, it’s the money.”  In this case it goes much further then money because God wants all of you.  Everything you are and everything you’re going to be.
Listen to what Paul told believers in the book of Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
In whatever you do, it doesn’t matter if it’s a word or a deed, everything you do, whatever you say, all of your actions, your work, and your play, everything that you do as a Christian you are to do in the name of Jesus.  That one fact, that simple Scripture should be enough to compel every man, woman and child who professes to know Jesus Christ to strive for excellence in every pursuit and endeavour. 
When you call yourself a Christian then you are calling yourself a follower of Jesus Christ, and your are supposed to be Christ like or like Christ, and so your actions reflect the actions of your Lord or at least they should, and I trust that He would do His very best.
I said all of that to say , We Have Been Born To Live!
Genesis 5:23-24 Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.
2) We Have Been Born to Die   I know that Enoch didn’t die, but the fact that he didn’t was reason enough to put him in the bible.  He is only one of two people who we are told skipped that part of life.  The other one was Elijah 2 Kings 2:11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.   That sounds even cooler than being translated, whisked into heaven in a chariot of fire.   Was it a real chariot of fire?  Maybe, but think of the many different things that would have to be described as a chariot of fire by someone who lived 3000 years ago. 
Our biggest problem at this point is that we view death as the enemy.  We see death as  some kind of great  cosmic mistake.  And so we are never quite comfortable talking about it.  We are  like the two friends who meet on the street and the first one says “So how’s your wife?” and his friend responds “Oh didn’t you know, she’s gone to heaven.”  And so the first fellow says, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean I’m sorry she’s in heaven I mean I’m glad, no I don’t mean I’m glad she’s in heaven I’m just surprised that she’s there.”  Which brings me to my next question, “If heaven is such a wonderful place how come nobodies in a hurry to go?” 
I mean like Disney World is a wonderful place and everybody wants to go to Disney World.  The answer by the way is that’s the way God made us.  God instils into each one of us a sense of self preservation, it in turn keeps us from doing dumb things like stepping off of tall buildings and into the path of speeding trains.  But even though we try to put it off death is inevitable. 
Death may be unexpected, it may be a tragedy or a blessing.  It may be as early as the death that comes to over a 100,000 pre-born babies a year across Canada.  It may be as tragic as a family destroyed in a traffic accident caused by a drunk driver as violent as a life stolen by a killer or it may be as peaceful as a senior Christian entering his or her saviour’s arms as they sleep.  But however death comes, it is inevitable.  Tony Campolo put it eloquently when he said  “You are all going to die and they will put you in a hole in the ground, throw dirt in your face and then go back to the church and eat egg salad sandwiches.”
In its plainest terms death is simply the end of life, that is the end of this life.  We need to recognize that our destiny is death and we can’t change that.  David Niven said “I won’t go, I’ll kick and scream and make a terrible fuss”  Now I don’t know what type of fuss he made but I do know that in 1983 he went.  The truth is that we are all going, whether we want to or not because We Have Been Born To Die.
So let’s see what have we got so far, We’ve been born to live, and we’ve been born to die, pretty well covers it doesn’t it?  Oh not that’s right there has to be more doesn’t there?
Genesis 5:23-24 Enoch lived 365 years, walking in close fellowship with God. Then one day he disappeared, because God took him.
3) We Have Been Born To Live Forever.  I marvel at people who have their entire lives planned out yet never give any thought as to what will happen when the last page is turned.   The bible tells us of an incident that happened between Jesus and someone who was obviously thinking about what would happen when the last page was turned, we read in Luke 10:25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
But really the lawyer was asking the wrong question.  Sometimes we hear Christians talk about eternal life being a part of the grace package, but the reality is that we are taught in the bible that we are eternal beings and we will all live forever.  Some will live forever in the presence of God, which means in the presence of love and light and goodness and kindness and joy. 
And others will live forever far from God and far from love and light and goodness and kindness and joy.  And Jesus tells us that each one of us gets to choose where we will spend forever.  John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.   The how is spelled out in  John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.   And when we accept Jesus we accept his grace and his forgiveness and his instructions, and it’s our choice. 
None of us choose when and how we would be born, very few if any of us will be able to choose when and how we will die, but everyone of us will get to choose where we will spend eternity.