Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Reflections on the Death of a Saint

Today, I had the honor of officiating in the funeral of a precious church member.  She was 93 years of age and a remarkable woman.  One of our church's surviving charter members.  Her faith in God to endure the trials of an aging body was admirable.  Her sweet and gentle spirit was contagious.  Her reticence to be tied to the past but to live in the present was a joy.  I was glad today that she was a Christian.  "Sinner" is not a word that comes to mind when I think about her, but it is (was) a part of her reality.  And somewhere along her journey (around 12 if I remember the story rightly) she acknowledged that and owned that label--"sinner".

The Bible is clear about that.  Every single human being has committed treason against God.  We have rebelled; launched a coup; transgressed, usurped and dishonored a loving, gracious God.

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"   Romans 3:23
"There is none righteous, no not one" Romans 3:10
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way"  Isaiah 53:6

Perhaps you resist admitting just how bad you are.  I'm glad my friend didn't.  And the good news is that people who admit this do something else.  They reach out of Jesus.

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9

"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved."  Romans 10:13

This saint did all of this and more.  And I'm so very glad.  I'm glad I got to talk about that--what we Christians call "her salvation experience"; and that this very sad day for so many was laced with a little joy that she is now "safe in the arms of Jesus."

A pastor gets many privileges.  For me, I count it a privilege to stand near the casket as family and friends file by for their last farewell.  I know some people have the "closed casket" but I'm partial to that last farewell.  I know some pastors hate that moment.  I do refuse to stand right at the head of the casket, which is where ministerial protocol suggests.  For me, that's too invasive.  I want to be close enough to be a help yet far enough to give someone their privacy.  I forgot how tearful and sorrowful those moments can be.  I heard tears and sobs and sadness today that reminded me of the sting of death.  Adam and Eve messed it up for us.  There was suppose to be separation and the curse and death.  But sin has a penalty... "for the day that you eat of it, you shall die."

But again, at the graveside, I was able to remind everyone that Jesus has the final victory over sin and death.  A precious saint is in glory with her Savior.  What a joy!