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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

Grieving our Condemnation of a Photo being taken

Devotional Thought of the Day:

1  Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand 2  No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. 3  It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. 4  But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, 5  he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. 6  Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. 7  God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! 8  You can count on this. I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone.   Titus 3:1-8 (MSG) 

16  If a hostile witness stands to accuse someone of a wrong, 17  then both parties involved in the quarrel must stand in the Presence of GOD before the priests and judges who are in office at that timeDeuteronomy 19:16-17 (MSG) 

758  You say that he is full of defects! Very well… but, apart from the fact that people who are perfect are found only in Heaven, you too have defects, yet others put up with you and, what is more, appreciate you. That is because they love you with the love Jesus Christ had for his own, and they had a fair number of shortcomings. Learn from this!

Yesterday my twitter and facebook accounts were flowing with criticism of three world leaders for taking a picture of themselves ( a “selfie”) at the celebration of Nelson Mandela’s life. They were smiling, but the atmosphere of the celebration was a joyous one. How “shameful!”, how “horrible”, “How disrespectful”. were the cries.   To be honest, the two prime ministers, both of very reserved countries, were not criticised as much as President Obama was.  I wonder, if he had said no, and insulted the Danish lady who asked, how the press and the cybersphere would have handled it?

I challenged a few of the more virulent attacks, wondering where their compassion and understanding went, when the rush to judgment occured.  I asked a few questions,

1.  When exactly in the celebration was the picture taken?

2.  Who asked for the picture?

3.  Did you know this wasn’t the funeral, but a public celebration and testimony of this remarkable man’s work?

I’ve learned to ask these questions, because of my own experience rushing to judgment, and falling on my face as I realized I didn’t know the entire story.  I am not immune to such rushes to judgment, yet I can stop myself a little more often.  Those I asked – came back defensively, as if there was no valid reason to question their public questioning and condemnation of this action.  The irony is slightly amusing, but far more, it grieves me. Especially among those who know God, who understand His mercy, who know His commandments to love, to build up each other,these comments were made, and so I grieve.

I am afraid we’ve lost our way, that we’ve become so polarized in our comfort, that we don’t lift up leaders, that we don’t remember that they, like us, are human.  We don’t take on the big issues, but we look for what we perceive to be charachter flaws, signs of betrayal, and we latch onto those things. What kind of example are we setting, what kind of love are we showing people that God has for them?  If theyknow the scriptures, how could they see us as obedient to God, as treasuring the kind of life that He commissioned us to live?

If we claim to live in GOd’s presence, if we claim to know the Holy Spirit dwells in us, how can we continue to be so ready to believe and pass on every criticism about someone, whether we know the details or not.  How will this behavior reflect on the God who appointed us as His ambassadors?   Will this pattern of behavior, far more self centered than “selfies”, become part of our church relationships?  Our family life?

At what point will we lay down our idolatry, our  self appointed judgeships, and will we pray for our leaders?  When will we look to encourage them and respect them rather than tear them down?

Will will confess these sins, and hear those incredible words  – your sins are forgiven you – go and sin no more!

For God is faithful – and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!

Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3150-3154). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Dealing with the Resentment That Hinders us…. A Lesson from Mandela

English: Nelson Mandela's prison cell on Robbe...

English: Nelson Mandela’s prison cell on Robben Island Français : Cellule de Nelson Mandela, Robben Island Deutsch: Nelson Mandelas Gefängniszelle auf Robben Island Myanmasa: Robben Island (ရော်ဘင်ကျွန်း)ပေါ်ရှိ Nelson Mandela’s (နယ်လဆင် မန်ဒဲလား) ၏ထောင်အခန်း (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Devotional Thought of the Day:

 8  Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 9  Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. 10  For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. 11  Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it. 12  The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.1 Peter 3:8-12 (NLT)

738 Those who zealously keep a “list of grudges” show themselves to be very narrow-minded souls! Such poor wretches are impossible to live with. True charity neither keeps account of the necessary services it renders all the time, nor takes note of the effronteries it has to put up with. Omnia suffert—it endures all things.(1)

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”  (2)

A few movies, the one that comes to mind first is Invictus, Morgan Freeman portraying Nelson Mandela using sports – something other than politics, to unite a people too long divided.

Assuming the movies and the books are correct, the most remarkable thing he did was not to survive nearly 3 decades brutally imprisoned, or becoming the first black president of South Africa.  What is amazing to me is that he did it without (apparently) giving voice to the resentment that could have built up over those years. He didn’t take action and get revenge, something that he could have done, with the authority he wielded.   What is amazing to me is that healing that happened to Mandela’s soul, healing that enabled him to lead in a way that din’t bring a pendulum swing to the nations politics, but rather seems to have ushered in a journey towards justice and making things right.

It would seem to me, that this freedom from the burden of resentment, of a thirst not for revenge but for justice, is what makes this man remarkable.  It’s not something we do easily as humans, for our desire to hold onto our hurts and pain from being betrayed runs strong.  Think of movies – how many conquer evil by force as opposed to by allowing themselves to be martyred?  Think of the rush of… joy(?) we get when evil gets its due punishment, or our cries for justice for us, without thoguht of what it might cost others.  Somehow, the power that Mandela received was not used for evil, for revenge and satisfying a demand for retrinution.

Personally, I think this is due to his faith, which seems to have grown during his imprisonment. The model of Christ who didn’t have to put up with the constant questioning of his work, the beatings, the crucifixion. The man who brutalized his followers would become a leader among those followers.  His followers would face torture and death with the same kind of instinctive love, as they asked God not to hold sin against those who tormentented them.

This blog isn’t about praising those martyrs, or even Mandela.

It’s an invitation to know the freedom that they knew.  To get rif of the resentment you’ve build up over the years, to rid yourself of the thirst for revenge.  Realeased from that…evil, binding, crap, to find joy, to find joy even in serving those who previously treated us in an evil way.  That is healing. That is what St. Josemaria, another man hated and treated evilly by both those who oppose Christ and those who claim to follow him, is talking.

I invite you to share in it… I invite you to an altar where it is made real. As Christ would feed you His Body and Blood, given as promised to you, in order to prove that sin, all sin, is forgiven.

SO drop it there… your sin, the sin committed against you… and rise to know a peace that goes beyond anything you could ever expect, that you could ever explain.  Know Christ is with you, and all else… can be forgotten.

(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 3072-3076). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

(2)  Nelson Mandela – quote taken from:  http://pastors.com/20-quotes-from-nelson-mandela-a-leader-who-truly-changed-the-world/

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