Tuesday, August 29, 2006

incomparable hope

My grandfather, a gentle Mennonite man who leaves behind six children, twenty-seven grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren, passed away unexpectedly last Thursday. I wrote this reflection after his funeral yesterday.

The day before Opa died found me in Luke 9:59-60. Jesus called a young man to follow him. "But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." In this Jesus highlighted the present spiritual condition of the people (death) and their urgent need to enter the life Jesus offered them. Nothing was so important that it should stand in the way of that.

At Opa's funeral today I reflected on how much things have changed. We are no longer the dead burying their dead--we are the living, not so much burying the living as gathering on the shore to see them off, to say farewell, to finish up for them their last bit of business on Earth. It is true for whole families, whole communities of believers, and it has been true for millions since the resurrection of Jesus Christ brought the reality of eternal life into our world.

By the graveside we read Scripture and sang "Jesus Loves Me." How powerful is this truth--that when we die we continue to live, and are received into the bosom of One who loves us. How much hope is in that!

The minister took flowers from the bouquet that had been on the casket and gave them to family and friends, anyone who wanted one, so that we could toss them into the grave. And even this moved me to tears. Whereas in the past pagans would bury their dead with cold, lifeless things--money, armour, swords and shields, clothing, things to help them fight their way through the next world--we toss in living things: flowers, symbols of simple, beautiful, created life.

If Jesus had done nothing else for us, I think I would love Him for this: for giving so many generations so much hope, peace, and confidence when faced with death. Jesus alone allows us to cry for ourselves while feeling only gladness for the one who has gone to be with Him. Jesus alone turns the terror and darkness of the grave into something beautiful, though it still causes us to sorrow.

O Death, where is thy victory? O grave, where is thy sting? Gone... washed away by the blood of God's holy Lamb, He who is meek and lowly in heart, He who has gone to prepare a place for us, and promised to receive us to Himself.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Haley Crenwelge said...

I had an Opa. He died when I was about 6 or 7. He was really special to me, too.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy Nuñez said...

If only more people, Christians especially, had a less gloomy perspective on death, but recognize the importance of worthwhile living. Good piece.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praise The lord Sister Rachel, I have found myself using just about evrything you send to minister to someonme. John 17:20 Jesus is praying for all those who will beleive on Him through their word. Please always let that word reign supreme in you as you minister to ohers. God is glorified.
Pastor Daniel Hall

1:40 PM  
Blogger Marie said...

We called my grandfather Opa, too. I wish he had the faith of your Opa.

11:09 PM  

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