There was a country song out many years ago called “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden”–in other words, I never told you life would be always easy. Right now my wife and I are experiencing a “not-rose garden”. We live in a condo and early Sunday morning the water heater in the apartment above us broke and water came down through our walls into our bathroom and kitchen. Now the drywall has to be replaced and the bathroom redone. We will have to leave our home for about 10 days to 2 weeks while the work is done. The damage isn’t too awful and the repairs won’t cost us anything, but our lives are still being disrupted and made less than pleasant.
That’s the way life is in this sin saturated world we live in. Nothing is perfect, everything is distorted by sin and all manner of bad can happen to anyone–even saved saints of God. Now some people try to tell us that if we just have true faith nothing bad will ever happen to us, we’ll all be healthy, wealthy and wise, to quote Benjamin Franklin. There is a whole segment of the Christian Church that teaches what is sometimes called a prosperity gospel, which is indeed no Gospel at all but a bunch of malarkey thought up by people who are generally the only ones who seem to become wealthy.
Christians are not immune to the ills of this world. What we are is forgiven and rescued from our sinfulness by the blood of Jesus, and that is worth far, far more than anything this world can give us. Our future is assured because Christ did for us what neither we nor anything in this world could do. That is what we hold to in times of difficulty.
But still–I can’t wait to get my place back in order. 🙂
I had an experience this week which really bothers me. One of our members went home to the Lord. This was not unexpected given her advanced age and health issues, but it was still painful for those of us who loved that person.
I was contacted by one of the person’s children and asked to refrain from speaking about sin or the fact that their parent had been a sinner during the service. They wanted to keep everything “upbeat” and happy. I said that the Gospel is only good news if you know what the alternative is–eternity in hell. Sinners who know Christ as Lord and Savior are not bound for punishment but for an eternity in the presence of the Lord. That’s what makes the news good for believers. That, however, wasn’t good enough. There could be no discussion of such things because they were a “downer”, I guess. I also pointed out that funerals always have people in attendance who have not heard the Gospel and it is an important part of a funeral service to witness to those folks, especially when the deceased had a saving faith.
Well, none of this was good enough and so we’re not having a funeral. The family is sponsoring its own celebration of life at a civic building. That’s okay, I know where the deceased is and I rejoice in their salvation.
Despite being disturbed by this one incident, I have to say that I have been put off for some time about these so-called celebrations of life that have become popular. I’m especially put off when they take place in churches. Oh, I know that the family and friends want to hear good things about the one they mourn, and I have no objection to that at all. There is a place in our service for a Life Sketch where that is done. But there is also the proclamation of the Gospel in readings, prayers, hymns and a sermon. What is taking place here is not about the person’s life in this world, however long that may be. It is about the person’s life on the other side of the door–the really long part of life, not the short one.
St. Paul writes that we are not to grieve as do those who have no hope. Grieving is normal, but it becomes abnormal when it is either stuffed down in our gut, kept and massaged in our minds, or when people try to assuage their grief with a big party. Only faith in Jesus and in the eternal blessings bestowed on His elect people can truly give us hope filled grief, a bearable grief which has with it a true sense of victory over sin, death and the devil.
As a pastor I have responsibility for the care of the souls whom I serve. I won’t allow that to be diluted by worldly views. If that makes me a bad guy, I guess I’m a bad guy. But I will always care much more about the long future of my parishioners than about their short past.