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Mandela, Memorials, Celebrations and Funerals…for what purpose?

Raising of Lazarus. Jesus calls out Lazarus fr...

Raising of Lazarus. Jesus calls out Lazarus from his tomb. Mary and Martha accompany Jesus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional THought of the Day:

21  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” 23  Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24  “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” 25  Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” 27  “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”  John 11:21-27 (NLT) 

Have you ever said something that was far more accurate than you could ever expect?

In the gospel, Martha responds to Jesus, testifying to why she believe her brother is alive.  She says this even as she knows his body, broken and empty, lies cold behind he stone. She got the answer right!  I have believed you are the Messiah… that makes everything  – including seeing her brother again, not just a nice thought – but an expectation.  Because of Him!

I have been thinkning about this a lot in the last days, since Mandela’s memorial service, and the uproars that it caused. People, newspeople and those who followed their stories missed the reason for a memorial service, and later for the funeral, which was far more private. It seems like a constant theme in the months that have passed, as many people I know have lost family, dads, and granddads.  The grief is a bit overwhelming, in some ways more personal this year, more overwhelming, even before my own dad’s suffering was replaced with the joy of being in the Father in Heaven’s presence.

So why do funerals exist?  Are they to celebrate the accomplishments of a person’s life?  Are they there to give voice to the grief the family and close friends know?  Are they times for us to put life in perspective, realizing that all life has a termination point? Are they times for us to meet up with old friends and family, in a place where the disagreements and distance seem.. well minute?  Is there time for laughter and joy amidst the tears?  If so, is it even appropriate? So many questions, and as a veteran pastor, each of the questions will find their answers differently, because they are not the primary issue of the memorial service, the celebration of life, the funeral.

THe prupose is something different.  It is something deeper, something more challenging to consider.

It is about celebrating the relationship between God and the person who has passed away.  About realizing that God has fulfilled the promises to that man or woman personally. That as God claimed them as His, as God sustained them, blessed them, disciplined them, exalted them, love them, that their life is a testimony to God’s love and mercy.  THat we can entrust this person we cared about, whom we loved, into the hands of God.   Because of that we know as King David said of His son, there will be a day when we can go to him.

It doesn’t matter whether it is Mandela, or a dear friend.  Those God has claimed are His,stating His claim at the cross, when Jesus died. He is faithful, even when we struggle to be.

Such is God’s love for us… a love that is shown in life and death. A love that needs to be revealed, and celebrated, and known.

For in realizing that love, we also realize His comfort and His peace, even as our eyes resemble waterfalls…

ALl these labels for these events, the ceremonises should teach us of God’s love… and I pray we hear it, see it revealed, and know it in our hearts..AMEN

Thoughts from Celebrating God’s Faithfulness to my Dad…

Devotional Thought of the Day:

English: Resurrection of Christ

English: Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)
6  Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. 7  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

233         You spoke about the scenes in the life of Jesus which moved you most: when he met men suffering greatly… when he brought peace and health to those whose bodies and souls were racked with pain… You were inspired—you went on—seeing him cure leprosy, restore sight to the blind, heal the paralytic at the pool: the poor beggar forgotten by everybody. You are able to contemplate Him as He was, so profoundly human, so close at hand! Well… Jesus continues being the same as then.  (1)

A long day today, as we celebrated God’s faithfulness to my dad.

As I stood there, watching two friends officiate at my dad’s service, I missed saying “The Lord be with you” and hearing the people thunder back, “and also with you!”.  In retrospect, if I did it again, I’d steal those lines back.

Why?

Because when I heard them, when I hear these precious words, when I hear God is also with me, it is like every promise of God is poured out, all at once, upon me.  For every promise of God boils down to His presence, His loving, merciful, comforting presence being realized in this life, and the promise of it in the next.

Escriva knew this well – his writing are full of such comments as the one above – when in the midst of suffering – whether physical, or emotional and especially that taken on voluntarily to share in the gospel  – He is there! 

And He is here with me, now, as I grieve…

And with my mom, and with my wife and son, and He longs to be with all whom He died for….

So let Him, and when you know He is there – share that glorious thing… with everyone you know!

God Bless…

And thanks for praying for us!

(1)     Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1170-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

300 posts, 59 countries…a Wedding, a Funeral, and the Pope’s First Sermon….

Devotional Thought of the Day…

 27 God’s plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. 28 So we preach Christ to everyone. With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature individual in union with Christ. 29 To get this done I toil and struggle, using the mighty strength which Christ supplies and which is at work in meColossians 1:27-29 (TEV)

Those of us who bear in our hearts the truth of Christ have to put this truth into the hearts, and minds and lives of others. Not to do so would show a love of comfort and bad tactics too. Think it over once again: Did Christ ask you permission before coming into your soul? He left you free to follow him, but he was the one who sought you out, because he chose to. (1)

This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who confessed Jesus Christ, says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. This has nothing to do with it.” He says, “I’ll follow you on other ways, that do not include the Cross.” When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I would like that all of us, after these days of grace, might have the courage – the courage – to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Cross of the Lord: to build the Church on the Blood of the Lord, which is shed on the Cross, and to profess the one glory, Christ Crucified. In this way, the Church will go forward.  (from Pope Francis’s first homily 3/14/13)

It seems a pretty big milestone in some ways.  As I posted yesterday’s message – my sermon from Wednesday night’s Lenten Service.  300 devotions and sermons I have posted here.  People literally from all over the world have read these “pages” – from 59 countries – including most of the Middle East.  It is incredible to consider, that the pastor of a small church, would see his words reach such distances.  In a crazy week – it hasn’t quite sunk in, for that matter, neither has my recent mission trip to China, and the massive amount of work that I was able to witness there, and the amount of prayer and emotional support we need to provide to those over there.

This morning, I need to craft three sermons for this weekend.  My normal Sunday message – which is based on Phil. 3 – that nothing is comparable to knowing Christ.  On Saturday I will officiate at a wedding, and at a funeral.  And even as I begin, I realize that the 300 posts, and the three sermons this week, and even the new Pope – Pope Francis’s first message – are all, in reality – the same encouraging word…and that word is provides us hope, comfort.

As the new Pope phrased it, we are to walk in the presence of the Lord, with His cross… professing the glory of Christ.

That will be the key to our churches reviving – nothing else.

That will be the key to the young couple’s marriage – that they live together in Christ – that He becomes the center of their lives. That they build their family, the engage their community, with the cross of Christ there before them.

And for Jim, it was what sustained him in life, and will sustain his family now that he awaits us before God’s throne.

If I had wrote this blog a few years ago – and even now I am tempted – to preach about the injustice inside, and outside of the church. For such injustice, such unrighteous – burns and causes me to burn. (even as of this morning!)  I want to fall to the temptation of making this a statement.  But that will change nothing, I can rant and rave – I can writing scathing rebukes- and I will create wars and revolutions.

Only one thing causes change – in me – or in those I want to change.

The presence of Christ. The Lord who St. Josemarie reminds us, seeks us out – who invades our lives.  So let this blog, and indeed, all of us who know Christ – proclaim His love, proclaim His cross… proclaim His presence…

and may we realize that mercy…and walk with Him…

Thank you all for encouraging me by reading this words… and especially thank you to those who like and comment on them.

 

 

 

 

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3341-3344). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Greatest Collector’s Collection

Devotional THought of the Day:

This morning I will be doing a funeral, helping a daughter grieve, a daughter whose mom passed away10 months ago, whose day passed away last week.

When I met him, he talked a little about the history he had at our church, the families and friends he remembered, who he served by.  He also talked a lot about the things he collected over the years, the precious stamps and coins, the meeting with others who collected, the teaching of young collectors.  Our discussions brought to mind a favored passage:

 45 ‘Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; 46 when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.Matthew 13:45-46 (NJB)

That is a dedicated Collector, One willing to give up everything for that which is His prized possession.

So often I have heard that passage talk about those who seek for God – who seek for righteousness, who long to set things…right.

If you look carefully though, it is not so – the Kingdom of God is like the merchant – this is describing the work of the Father, and His work in coming to redeem (to purchase back) the pearl.  They are the one’s seeking to complete their collection, even as the Shepherd will look for the lost sheep, or the woman her lost coin, or the Father, his prodigal son.

God is out – collecting – He has sent His agents into the world (us – His people) to continue to search for the collection.  And He gave up everything- to purchase for Himself a people.  He gave up His only beloved Son.

It is in days like this, that our trust in God is challenged a bit – in days where the bills are tight, in days where we don’t grasp everything going on.. it is then we need to remember that He seeks us, He comes to us, He pays the price for us, He loves us…..

And His goal is to have us…with Him.

As we draw near to a close in this advent season…may we always rejoice in His seeking us.

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