Skip to main content

As Long as the Candle Burns

Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.

John Lennon

"I am going into an unknown future, but I'm still here, and still while there's life, there's hope." Former Beatle John Lennon said those words in December of 1980. He was gunned down shortly after. When questioned, Mark David Chapman stated that his motive for the murder was the fame that would come with slaying a such a high profile person as Lennon. And so, a vibrant life came to a senseless end.

John Lennon had no way of knowing when he uttered those words about life and hope that his own life would soon come to a tragic end. That the unknown future he was heading into was The Great Unknown. There would be no more life, and the only hope left for him was the hope of the resurrected. Lennon could not possibly conceive when he would sing his last note. Unless a person is terminal, none of us ever know when we will take our final bow.


No one knows the hour

In Matthew 24 Jesus gave signs of the end of the age. Here we are, 2000 years later, still waiting for that day, but the words he spoke apply to more than just the end times. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days of the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving up in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothin about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away....Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

From the moment we're conceived in the womb our days are numbered. We do not know the minute we will die, nor how it shall come to pass. Only God in Heaven knows. Therefore, we are to live our lives in such a way that when the time comes we're prepared to face it.

Tragedy in Ecuador

At any given moment anything can happen. An unfortunate truth that was made abundantly clear in Latin America during the 18th century. On February 4th, 1797, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck Ecuador. Whole mountains and waterways moved into the five provinces affected by the massive temblor. The great upheaval released avalanches and erupted the Ygulaga volcano, which in turn swallowed five villages in its lake of fire.

Meanwhile, the city of Quito was completely destroyed while in neighboring Masdro, the small hamlet was swallowed into the earth leaving only two survivors. Villagers in Cuero watched helplessly as an entire mountainside rolled down and crushed the unfortunate town. Landslides continued the devastation for more than two months after the quake. An estimated 40,000 people lost their lives to the tragic disaster.

The same destiny awaits us all

And indeed the Riobamba earthquake was a tragedy. That morning 40,000 people woke up, made their coffee, and went about their day, little knowing that it would be their last mundane morning. So what hope is there? We cannot know the hour of our deaths; every day is a day that somebody, somewhere, has made plans and appointments that they would never live to fulfill.

For some this is distressing news. Why bother? What's the point? King Solomon struggled with the same questions. He wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:2 As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so it is with those who are afraid to take them....the same destiny over takes all. The book of Ecclesiastes was a melancholy book, but we must not live in despair of death. Death is not an enemy, Jesus gave us victory over death on the cross. Since we need not fear death, we can embrace life. We should take every advantage of life while we still can.

The candle burns

The Jewish Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883) told the parable of a shoemaker who was working late into the wee hours of the morning. The good rabbi approached the man: "Look how late it is; your candle is about to go out. Why are you still working?" the shoemaker answered, "As long as the candle is burning, it is still possible to mend." Those words struck a chord within Rabbi Salanter, and for weeks afterward he would turn the phrase around and around in his head. "As long as the candle is burning, it is still possible to mend."
Through the Grace of God we need not worry about the next life. While we're still on the earth we can focus on this life. We must not despair of bygone acts, there is still time to mend. We can repair the broken relationships in our lives. We can make peace where it is lost. We can donate to charity and help the needy. The same destiny may await us all, yet where there's life, there's still hope. The good citizens of Ecuador surely thought that they would have ample time to mend fences, they could not have known prior to the quake that their time was up. John Lennon thought he was in the dawn of a new decade, he couldn’t predict his murder. Leave the past behind and focus on what you can fix today because tomorrow is not guaranteed. So go eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

© 2017 Anna Watson