We finally ended our study of Genesis at Echo last night. Had some friends from Mason [and Iowa] visiting us, giving us a good crowd despite a few regulars being gone. In wrapping up our months of study, I taught how Genesis, a book best known for its details of creation, begins with life but ends in death. The last chapter discusses the interment of two patriarchs: Jacob and Joseph. Jacob's remains were taken from Egypt and buried in the Promised Land. Joseph, however, knew that his relatives wouldn't be allowed to take his body to the Promised Land, but left specific instructions to make sure that his descendents would make sure to get his bones to Israel. I noted that the body of Joseph became an object of hope for the Israelites, who were enslaved by the Egyptians. Eventually [500 years later] Joseph was buried in his homeland. And, just like Joseph, Jesus' body [or the lack thereof] should represent hope for His followers, that we might someday return to our native land [heaven].
Ironically, my father called this morning to inform me that my step-grandfather passed away. He was ninety-eight years old, but I swear he could've lived another 20 years. I'll be officiating his funeral this week. He really has no other family, and I assume most of his friends passed away years ago, so it should be a small gathering.
John was a very proud man, wanting everyone to know that he had the financial means to take care of himself. I hate to admit it, but he was a bitter old man. He had few kind things to say about other people, but he really cared about my grandmother. He was never much to talk about faith but, in these later years, he started making appearances at church with my grandmother. I'm not sure if it ever registered to him how desperately he needed Jesus. We'll never know.
Death happens. To everyone. I still come back to the most profound statements I ever heard, that was actually uttered in a Bill and Ted's movie. The grim reaper, in the midst of a rap, said, "You might be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you'll dance with the reaper." Brilliant. No matter who you are, you can't escape death.
I would suppose that death is the most important issue in my ministry. This obviously goes way beyond funerals. A key aspect of my job is get people to come to grips with the reality that they will eventually die and, because their lives will end someday, they should evaluate how they are now living. As a professor in college once said, "our eschatology [view of death/afterlife] determines our life's philosophy."
I guess I'm saying, "just think about it." Don't become so obsessed with death that you can't live. But, please, don't stroll through life without considering where you're heading.
I hope he doesn't mind, but I want to recommend Chad Doerr's blog again. Chad, who ministers at a church in Falmouth, Kentucky, recently lost his wife Amy. He's been journaling his journey in moving on with life while still remembering hers. It's some fantastic stuff.