Yeager column: Twilight of the gods

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Like many, I enjoyed Stephanie Meyer’s vampire books. Like some, I actually went to the midnight screening of “Twilight” (I’m for Team Jacob).
Meyer is Mormon, like another of my favorite authors, Greensboro’s own Orson Scott Card. Just as his characters reflect religious practice and spiritual insight, I expected Meyer’s books to reveal something of the same.
On the surface, I was disappointed. Her characters seem to have no religious sensibilities at all, aside from Edward’s charmingly old fashioned scruples concerning sex. I forgive Meyer for this, however, because she posits at the very center of her story a magnificent spiritual question: If you could live forever, what would you live for?
Old Qoheleth says: [God] has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes. 3:11).
It seems every generation must wrestle with eternity ó especially we Christians who take seriously Jesus’ promises about “eternal” life: If we indeed live forever, what do we live for?
Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche wrestled with eternity in their day, and even produced “Twilights” of their own: Wagner’s opera, “Twilight of the Gods,” and Nietzsche’s book, “Twilight of the Idols.”
Wagner sang of the end of mythic gods, and a new dawn of humanity. Nietzsche looked deeper to the end of human idolatry and a perilous freedom thereafter. Being a composer, Wagner offered no new ethic, but Nietzsche, someone who certainly wrestled with the “eternity” planted in his own heart, (he was an atheist son and grandson of Lutheran pastors), developed a life-philosophy when he confronted eternity: Live every day of your life as if you must relive that day forever.
The bible says little about how to live forever. It does say this: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).
That may seem trite, but there is so much to that tiny word “know.”
I have known my wife Carol for 17years now, and she is as much a mystery to me today as the day I met her. I treasure my knowledge of her, but I am always delighted to discover something new. My children are 14 and 12, and they are forever new and changing to my joy and chagrin ó mostly joy. I imagine being surprised and delighted with them forever.
Maybe this happens when loving and knowing go together. To know Jesus, the author of life, must be like that ó always new, always a discovery.
If knowing and loving are the stuff of eternal life, then heaven must be a laboratory of discovery. Every idol that deceives us is smashed. Every god that hinders our loving Jesus is dethroned. That’s a joyful ethic we can embrace now, and continue forever without fatigue or boredom. Can Bella and Edward make it work? Not without sequels. Can Jesus and his bride? That’s for us to discover today, and tomorrow, and forever!
The Rev. Gregory Yeager is pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, China Grove.