L’chai-im! To Life!

Published 5:00 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2014

10-2 Dent Davis
What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

“Life is difficult,” Scott Peck wrote in the opening lines of his book The Road Less Traveled. It’s true that life is rarely “a bowl of cherries,” and can easily become a “rat race,” yet life is precious. For me life is an incredible, magnificent miracle. And at no time during the year is that more apparent to me than summer. Signs of life are everywhere. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers overflow at the Farmers’ Market. New birds arrive at our feeder daily. People are outside working, picnicking, playing, and gardening. And traveling. People get up earlier and stay up later. It’s almost like we try to squeeze the last drop out of summer before the days cool and the darkness increases.

But what is life? According to the dictionary, “life is the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body.” Another defines life as“a characteristic distinguishing physical entities having ‘signaling’ and ‘self-sustaining processes’ from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate.” Scientists tell us that life has been present on earth for 3.8 billion years, and that life takes many different forms

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But is that all there is to life? Not according to the Bible. In fact, the Bible speaks about life over 500 times. Life according to the Bible is a gift from God and not something that humans accomplish independently. Life was first given in creation, transformed through our redemption, and sustained by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Without God, the Bible asserts, the cosmos would be void and lifeless, and humans unable to sustain life. In a Biblical sense life is far more than breathing and animation. In fact, in relationship with God, life is “abundant,” more than anyone could ever imagine, even described as “eternal” in scope.

Life is always something we experience in the present tense. That’s why the way we choose to live our lives each day is such a vital challenge. As the Psalmist says, “You do not even know what tomorrow will bring. Teach us to count our days (Psalm 90:12). I love the poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. It is a reflection on life. You can read the full text for yourself (see http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html ), but it is her last line that challenges me: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” It is an important question for any day.

In the Fiddler on the Roof the residents of the sleepy little village of Anatevka celebrate the gift of life, even in adversity, as they sing: “To life! To life! L’chai-im! L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life!” If you think about it, that’s not a bad way to begin any day.

Dent Davis, Pastor
Tryon Presbyterian Church