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Lenten Meditation: Heaven or Hell

Every year during Lent, the Spiritual Life Commission of Christ Episcopal Church compiles and publishes a Lenten Meditation Book, containing submissions from our parish family that are intended to help provide comfort, encourage reflection, and spark action in our community and the world. These meditations range from poems and quotes to Bible verses and prayers, as well as songs, personal reflections, and inspirational passages from well-known theologians or authors. If you're nearby, you can grab a printed copy of the 2024 LMB at Christ Church while supplies last, or you can visit us here as we'll post one meditation each weekday. You can also check our social media outlets; simply click the links in this post, or bookmark the icons at the top of this page.

We hope that you enjoy and appreciate these meditations, as they reflect our varied and vibrant Christ Church family. We're grateful to be able to share them with you.

Many of us have seen or heard the commercial that asks whether one is going to heaven or hell, and they have the answer if you call their telephone number.  Of course, most who are reading this have a likely answer saying, “I’m going to heaven because I believe in Jesus Christ.”  That statement is certainly the appropriate start and our faith in Christ is certainly built on salvation through Him, but He also stated, Faith without works is dead (James 2:14-21) and that a tree is known by its fruit (Matt 12:33-37).  So, there is more needed than our simple minded, “get-out-of-jail card” saying that we believe.

In pondering these truths, the Spirit directed my thinking to John 15, I am the True Vine, which fully describes our grafting into the vine of Life and what is expected of each of us.  We have all heard most of these verses countless times, and surely many have pondered their instruction.  But at this moment, let’s just focus on the opening two verses:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

He makes it clear that the branches which are pruned from the vine shall wither and be cast into the fire.  From our earthly journey, we believe that at the point of our deaths we shall either abide with Christ, or else suffer the fate of a pruned branch.

To “abide in Christ” means to be “one” with Him; all that we are strives to be like Him.  We have not just “let go” of our sinful desires but have buried them in His death.  We are told: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5)  If any of these desires exist, one cannot be retained within the vine and the vinedresser will prune the branch.  When we stand before Christ, these earthly attributes must be fully absent, not a single smidgen of them can remain.  The zeal you have for Christ will purge all sinful, offensive attributes, and placing your trust in His mercy and grace assures your salvation.

Our struggle to resist the forces against God is a daily struggle and forms our growth.  With each and every action we are called to assess its qualities.  Fear and hatred of people and creation are works of the devil, while yearnings for truth, compassion, and love brings focus toward the Spirit.  Even the temperament of tolerance can be a pathway to sinful action when it impedes our proclamation of the Word, for it is the Gospel message we are commanded to proclaim.

Encapsulate each day as if it were your last giving thanks at its start to be asked to serve another, and at its close asking for forgiveness wherever you may have fallen short knowingly or not.  Living humbly in such a manner with your faith firmly planted in His saving grace, we will meet as one community in heaven united in the Life everlasting, the True Vine.

image for today's Meditation use with gratitude - artist is Monica Welch, and you can find this work here.


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