There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’
But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’
Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 23:38-43)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11)
I wonder if you would consider yourself to be ambitious. Are you the kind of person who looks for promotion in your career, who continually wants to make progress upwards?
Rob and I were both brought up in the Salvation Army. Our parents were both Salvation Army Officers (the equivalent to vicars in the Church of England). The Salvation Army is a Christian church and international charitable organisation founded by William Booth in 1865. The Salvation Army uses military terminology to describe its members. The members of each church are the soldiers and the spiritual leaders are the officers. When an officer is first ordained or commissioned they are given the rank of Lieutenant, as my nephew Luke was last summer, a Lieutenant is in some ways like a curate. After further training and experience the officer becomes a Captain and then a Major. If the officer is then promoted to posts with additional responsibilities, like our archdeacons and bishops, they may become Lieutenant-Colonels or Colonels and of course if they are promoted to the top job they become The General.
Many organisations have structures where people are promoted and many people strive to be promoted. However in the Salvation Army there is one promotion that in time we hope will come to all of us.
Last Friday, Rob’s dad, my father-in-law, died. He was 93 years old and after a short illness died peacefully at home. He had had a long and fulfilling life; he had worked abroad in South America as a missionary for the Salvation Army for many years, and he had had six lovely children, lots of grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. When he died last week, the phrase that was used was one that I have been familiar with all my life, it was that he had been ‘promoted to Glory’. This is how death is described in the Salvation Army. This was his final promotion, it is a promotion that is open to all of us who believe in Jesus. The criminal who hung on the cross next to Jesus was promoted to Glory when he died, as Jesus promised him that ‘today he would be in paradise’.
There is still a sense of loss and sadness when someone you love dies, even when they are as old as Rob’s dad was, but he was a man of faith and now all the frailties and infirmities of old age are gone as he has been promoted to Glory. That is an ambition for us all.
Father God, we pray for all those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. May your arms of love surround them at this time.