History’s Lost and Found

I preached yesterday – two sermons. One went pretty well, the other could have used a lot more preparation than it got. But the congregation was very generous. One of the things I talked about during the course of the first sermon was how history is related, and how the facts of history can be chosen to present the story of history in a certain light. It’s one of the things I remember as most significant from the major in history I undertook in my undergrad days. I pointed out that 1492 looks very differently to a successful American business woman than it does to a tribal chief on an Arizona reservation. Same events; same history.

Anyway, with that I had two significant encounters today along those lines. CNN ran an obituary about a woman in Ecuador who died. The significant thing is that she was born the same year as Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler – 1889. She was 116 years old and was the oldest living person according to Guinness Book of World Records. She got married the year the United States entered World War I. Truman was in his full term as president 32 years later when her husband died. And I marveled that we are quickly running out of those who were alive in the 19th century when Queen Victoria ruled an empire where the sun was always shining somewhere. Soon it will all be left to books and no living memory will be around to tell any tale of those days. And that just struck me. I’m not sure why.

The other was a good, long conversation I had with a member of the congregation. He is approaching 80 and is recovering his strength in a hospital after several major surgeries and a few complications. He shared his testimony and some of his experiences in life. I could have listened all day – as long as he wanted to talk. I love listening to people and hearing their stories. I love hearing how their view on life has been shaped over the years, the things they did, and how they view those experiences now – good and bad. I learn so much from these oral histories. I am glad to listen while I can.

All of our knowledge comes from experience and the experience of others. And so much is lost through death. Imagine what we could do in a life that went on and on for all of eternity. I’m glad that is more than just wishful thinking – that eternal life is a very real opportunity for all that wish to accept it.  I look forward to spending a lot of time listening to people’s stories.

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