Friday, June 13, 2014

Job 7:7 "remember that my life is a breath...."

Today I attended the funeral of my last grandparent who was alive, my Grandma Alice.  What do you do with a funeral?  As Christ followers we believe in the resurrection of our bodies from the dead when Jesus returns, so that we may reign and rule with Him.  But we talk at funerals much too about how a person lived, as a witness this side of heaven.  My grandma, born in the early 1930's had a perspective many had of that generation.  It is one that is just hard to find today.  She was for instance very optimistic, which showed as she exuded a welcoming and outgoing personality that was uplifting whenever you would visit her.  She believed the best about a lot of people, and would really have her heart go out to them.  Alice would reach out to anybody and make them feel at home with hospitality.  There are so few people like that in our hurried society.  Perhaps there are lessons in this about hospitality and kindness and patience (1st Cor. 13).  It reminds you of the importance of setting an example and calls you back to things that matter...



Her funeral was held at a church she attended from another era, complete pipe organ, old style wooden pews, and 1970's lights.  This is not my style of worship, but I can appreciate its pointing a worshipper to transcendence, which I value.  That church building built very recently in the past decade is entirely new, but it was built in a previous style to attract older members and people in the aging area of Richardson, Texas.  It was a strategic choice, no accident.  The funeral hymns reflected that style she liked, so much so that they were not hymns I recognized or most under 45 would.  Ironically, she also listened to very modern music, people like Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.  She had met them too.  Irony exists in that, and in that generation too; with their church style versus personal music.  Today the funeral video tribute showed family in generations past as they grew up, people I knew in another time, another world almost.  Today we discussed her legacy, what is remembered, and how it changed us.  How did she help us relate to God and others.  What were her struggles, such as becoming a single mom due to her husband dying at a very young age, while raising seven, yes seven, children.  It reminds you of the importance of setting an example and calls you back to things that matter...

The most powerful thing a Christian funeral does is point to Jesus, who has risen already from the dead, so that we can reflect on our hope in the same.  I attended a Pakistani funeral service in North Texas recently, and the message (being a Christian one) did the same.  I always am awed by the power of the resurrection especially in connection to a dear saint's hope.  This is when the man or woman most deeply feels the tentativeness of life, and the raising from the dead makes the most sense, not as a wish, but as a sense God placed in our inner man or woman.  A funeral can be an excellent time for someone to consider the claims of Jesus and become a genuine follower of Him.  It's the nature of it, what do you speak, what do you believe?  How does it fit the reality of suffering and death, which the Bible says, comes as a result of the choice of sin by Adam and Eve.  A funeral of a loved one:  It reminds you of the importance of speaking beliefs and calls you back to things that matter...

Funerals remind you that you need to cling to God.  As dear family members are taken away from you, it is a lesson too in that God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and that He loves you (John 3:16) and so you can cling legitimately to Him.  This is mainly the realization that you cannot hold onto anything in this world forever. This world is passing away, therefore you and I must pursue the eternal things of Jesus' will more consistently.  The belief that God is worthy of your trust and leaning on is not foolish, He is Creator, so this makes full sense.  Who else can sustain you, since He sustains all creation at the word of His power and through Jesus Christ (Colossians 1)?  Such a truth is not a hope in a foolhardy way, but a real way to live to be most effective today (research history of Colgate family, Isaac Newton, Colonel Sanders, James P. Boyce family, Borden family, missionary Lottie Moon, and Adoniram Judson, John Knox, Martin Luther, and Jean Calvin, many successful people and companies in the West, etc to see this principle).  This fact reminds you of the importance of holding beliefs dearly and calls you back to things that matter...

And yet my grandma, as your relatives whom you love are not perfect, was not perfect.  The minister who did the funeral service whom she had gone to his church, really tried to play up how great she was, and how influential.  He almost overplayed it.  I love my grandma and wish she was still with us.  However, a tendency we all have to over exalt or over judge someone is risky.  The fact is she had sins and need for growth in some areas, as do I, as do you, as do your family.  Yet this truth that we are imperfect is practical:  This too teaches you to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.  The fact is this too is a reminder of the importance of living in a walk of trust in Jesus and calls you back to things that matter...

Family differences.  In any family, there may be one or two or more who do not get along.  Add in a big family and you just have more opportunity for that.  Funerals have a way of forcing people to get past themselves and come together.  It can still be awkward, absolutely.  But in the midst of that, there is a pointer that there are things bigger than us, and it points toward how things should be, how people should come together despite differences, which is like in some ways the Old Testament Hebrew idea of shalom, or peace.  Peace that makes whole.  Heaven is a place of peace where negative differences and sin do not reign.  Funerals have a way of reminding you of the importance of your faith in practice and call you back to things that matter...

What are you living for?  What attitudes do you let rule in your heart?  Do you want to change the world instead and leave a legacy and be an example of beliefs applied to real life?

When I lived in Kentucky for several years, the grocery stores up there all over seemed to have scenes from a previous era on the walls above the food and fridge cases.  I think it was meant to give some Kentucky charm.  However, that is a slight reminder of the full sense at a funeral you get, that this earthly life does end.  Then the question will be:  what kind of legacy did you leave, and who did you reach out to and bless, and how did you point them to God?  Funerals remind us not only of the raising from the dead of the deceased in a church, but also that your life is but a breath....

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