I am posting this for Lutheran Lady, Barbara, who is a member of our congregation. I hope you enjoy her heartfelt message.
Fifty-five years ago we moved eighty-eight miles away from our families, and since that time we have gone back to gather with family and friends for various occasions.
Other than our return for weddings, graduations and baptisms, funerals seem to draw us back far more frequently as we return to offer our condolences to those whose loved ones have gone to glory.
Each time I stand in a funeral home with the clan and friends of the family, I am so very aware of the “coming togetherness” among the mourners. Relationships, which were often estranged, seem to morph into something more than mere civility in a sad situation. Forgiveness and genuine empathy replace anger and bitterness, and very often emerge into a lasting love and friendship.
I’ve often wondered whether others are impacted as am I by the coming together with one another and wonder what it means. In his book, The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul states:
“Death often frightens us. When we see another person die, we are reminded that we are also mortal, that someday death will come to us. It is a thought we try to push from our minds. We are uncomfortable when another’s death rudely intrudes into our lives and reminds us of what we will face at some unknown future date. Death reminds us that we are creatures. Yet as fearsome as death is, it is nothing compared with meeting a holy God. When we encounter Him, the totality of our creatureliness breaks upon us and shatters the myth that we have believed about ourselves, the myth that we are demigods, junior-grade deities who will try to live forever.”
I’m sure that many people who attend funerals come because it is expected of them and they do their duty by attending. But as they move and interact with others, I believe God is doing a wondrous, maybe even miraculous work among them. Who but God knows – maybe the timing of the deceased is an important factor for relationships that need healing. Perhaps the pastor’s message enlightens attendees who finally realize that time is of the essence for saying, “I’m sorry” or “forgive me.”
In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.” An abundant life most certainly includes a life of peace, love, forgiveness and unity. It truly warms my heart to see the clan gather as one people under God. As the memorial service follows the viewing, and the words of scripture are read, I am grateful for the pastor’s opportunity to remind us all to: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col: 3: 13-14). And as we recite the Lord’s Prayer TOGETHER, may we pray in all sincerity, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Mt: 6:12.
May each funeral we attend wake us up to the fact that we are all God’s children and we are all in this place together. We will all one day die and hopefully ALL meet on the golden shore to love God and each other forever.