Recently I have been called upon for pastoral duties associated with friends and church members who have been loosed from their earthly bonds and are now celebrating in the joy, comfort and presence of Jesus.
When you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior there is indeed a bright future which awaits you. Two dear friends from church in the past few weeks have left us, both having reached 80 plus years. Maybe because I find myself in the shadow of 70 I’m realizing that the conversations I have with friends invariably get around to lengthy discussions about our respective health conditions. Truth be told, I feel great and am as active as ever – just not as quick as I once was.
But the conversation seems to always work its way around to health problems. Now, I’m okay with that, really. It’s just that I don’t want that to be the only topic covered. I vainly attempt to discuss sports in an effort to steer the subject away from death and dying. “Are the 49ers going to get rid of Kaepernick?” or “How about Sports Illustrated considering PGA golfer Jordan Speith as Sportsman of the Year?” or “Yeah, baby! The Patriots are 9 and 0!” or “The Warriors’ Steph Curry is on fire!”
Perhaps as we get older these illnesses and physical setbacks are a constant reminder of our looming mortality. Sooner or later we will shed this body of clay and be laid to rest in one manner or another – be it a coffin in the ground, or a mausoleum, or ashes scattered somewhere over the flora and fauna. It is not possible to escape such a final act in life’s perpetually progressing drama marching steadily toward the moment when the heart stops and the last breath is expelled from this tired, worn-out body.
One of my grandmothers lived to be 94. My mother was three months shy of 99 when she passed away last year. Neither of these ladies considered themselves to be old, nor did they enjoy being around “old people.” We all laughed at this, but as I think back on it I’m inclined to believe they were more interested in life and the things that were going on around them than they were sitting over a cup of tea chatting about theit aches, pains and operations which they had experienced.
Which all brings me to this question: Why do we seem to be obsessed with death and dying? I know that after having eight stents put in the arteries of my heart seven years ago, and being diagnosed with prostate cancer more than four years ago, I’m much more mindful of, and grateful for, each day.
The Bible says that God has placed eternity in the heart of every single person. Simply put, part of our make-up as people, our programming, if you will, gears us toward reflecting on our own existence and the significance of it in the light of eternity. Where do I fit in? Is there really more to life than the 70 or 80 years ascribed to us as mentioned by King David?
So if the concept of eternity has been embedded in my DNA by God himself, it would only make sense that I should want to find out where this all leads. Am I, in fact, an eternal being? Will I live forever? If so, where? And so, the questions arise.
At this point it is important to remember that Adam and Eve, our first earthly parents, were perfect and fully prepared to live on this earth in its pristine condition. But then came the choice to reject this perfect eternity by desiring to sin against God. Thus we were launched into a careening path of debauchery, destruction and death. All of this separated us from God. But he had an antidote for the sin problem. The name of this antidote is JESUS. He’s the one who rescues us from sin by having paid the price for our sin. When we accept him as our Savior, we are promised a new relationship with God through Jesus which leads us ultimately to Heaven where God awaits.
While sharing recently at a friend’s funeral service, I made it very clear that because Jesus had died and then raised himself from the dead, I was paying attention to whatever he had to say. You see, I figure if someone has the power to raise themself from the dead, they have my full, undivided attention! And because I have been walking with Jesus for 43 years my desire is now, and always will be, to be wherever Jesus is.
So, as I say farewell to my departing friends, and when called upon, officiate at their funeral services, I can’t help but be constantly reminded that one day I, too, will be leaving my earthly home for a far better place and a brighter future in Heaven.
I do hope that I will see you there!