Deuteronomy 34:1-12, Matthew 22:34-46
Everything in this world has a beginning and an end. Life in this world has a beginning and end. The tasks we do begin and end. Our jobs begin and end. Our ministry begins and ends. We holiday, it begins and ends. Everything in this world is temporal. Even our lives on this planet, begin and end. The seasons reflect our journey of beginnings and endings. Life starting, life decaying, life pausing and life restarting. But does this temporal nature make it worthless? Does this constant change, the beginnings and endings, make it all meaningless?
Not in the case of Moses. God has led him through the wilderness with the people of Israel. And in our reading, God reveals to Moses the land which has been promised, the land of milk and honey, of promise for a better future. To some it might seem that God is teasing Moses – look what you could have been part of. But that’s not how the reading goes.
It’s a moment of recognition that Moses has played his part. He might not be there to see the full task through, but he has done his bit to lead the people to the next stage and here he passes on the baton to Joshua.
It’s hard when we lose people. Our instinct is to want to hold onto things as they are – to deny the temporal nature of the world. Especially people who have gifted us with so much. We want them to stay and do what they’ve always done for us. But the rhythm of the world is different. Nothing remains still. Each plays their part, does their bit and moves on. God thanks them for their service and calls others to serve as part of God’s people.
And of course, letting go of those who have gone before us is hard. The people of Israel mourn together over Moses for 30 days. It’s part of the recognition that Moses was a servant of God, leading them. They give thanks and say goodbye. But then they look forward to who God is calling next, knowing in faith that God is at work beyond all they see in the temporal world.
Yet, importantly, in our faith there is more to life than just the temporal. We recognise that beyond what we see is the eternal where time and space no longer restricts and God is the source of all we are. And through faith in Christ, we follow in Jesus’s footsteps through death and into the resurrection.
That is our secure hope. That endings are not final. For death has lost its sting. We run the race here on earth and do our bit then pass the baton to others as God continues to call.
And those of us who call ourselves Christians and choose to follow Christ, devote our temporary life to following God’s commandments, in the hope that together we will lead people to the promised land.
And how do we do this? By loving God and loving our neighbour – just as Moses did. He loved God and devoted his life in service, but he loved the Israelites and even defended them before God when they strayed. He faced both God and God’s people in love.
In this temporary world, where we have our moment to do our bit, let us love God with all our heart, all our mind and all our soul and our neighbour as we love ourselves.