Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bethany Bullet - May 18, 2010

In the Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer edition of the Wyatt Earp saga, Tombstone, there is a sense at the end of the movie in which Doc Holiday, near death due to a battle with tuberculosis, is lying in his bed at a sanatorium. Wyatt Earp walks in, his apparent daily routine, shuffles and deals a deck of cards and asks, “How we doing today, Doc?” Holiday, played by Kilmer responds in a flippant, sarcastic manner, “I’m dying. How are you?” Without hesitation Earp, played by Russell, responds in a matter of fact way, “Pretty much the same.” One confined to bed, too ill to even hold a card hand; the other strong enough to take on a few more bad guys if needed. Yet both are in the same situation, they are dying - as we all are. Like taxes, death is one of the few certainties in life. So how do you prepare for it without pretending it’s not a big deal?

It is important to note that death is the result of man’s disobedience. (Read Romans 5:12ff)

It is even more important to note that death no longer holds the trump card. Death has lost at its own game. Jesus, by dying, has destroyed death. Jesus, by rising, has restored life. (Read Romans 6:3-10)

In card lingo, the Gospel of Jesus is both our suit and trump! So with that in mind…

How do you prepare to die without pretending it ain’t a big deal?

Begin by reading Paul’s advice in Philippians 1:21-24. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I continue to live in this life, my work will be fruitful. Which should I choose? I am torn between the two. I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far. Yet, for your sake I am convinced that I will remain in this life.”

There are 3 things in this text that can help us prepare to die.

1. Death is not to be feared! Through death we gain! Each and every one of us has at some point been on one side of the following equation. There is a sleeping child on the living room floor or couch, or under the kitchen table for that matter. Mom or dad soon comes and scoops up the sleeper and carries them off to their bed right. At times awake siblings may even protest, “Leave her here. We want them to stay with us in the living room.” Yet, mom simply says, “No. It’s her bedtime and she’ll be more comfortable where she belongs. Besides, soon enough you’ll be headed to bed too.” Our God does the same thing at death. He has promised that one day he will come back and carry us to our place of rest that we might be with Him. “I am going to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you, I’ll come back and take you to be with me where I am.” (John 14)

Death is no obstacle to God. He has power over it. By calling us home, through our sleep, that is death, our Father does for us what any loving parent would do for their child. Through death He takes us to the place prepared for us. We are made for heaven, death is but the gateway, and hence not to be feared.

2. Death’s timing is to be left to the hands of God. Paul makes it perfectly clear that he would rather be in heaven. The other side of the chronological spectrum of a child asleep on the floor is a great-granddad wide awake on the sofa wondering why he is still around. Most of us have also experienced that life equation too. “What is God waiting for? Why am I still here? How come He hasn’t come to take me home?” Like Paul, many desire to depart. Yet, for all Paul’s example is one of the faithful responses of God’s people, the timing of death is to be left to Him!

3. Death hurts those left behind, but less so if you point them where to turn and let them know what you believe about death. How? First make sure that Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed is not merely liturgy language in a season of the church year but a part of everyday life. Whether or not confined to a bed and racked with a deadly illness, we are all “pretty much the same”, we are all dying.

Specifically, how about adding a Christian Preamble to your will! Need help let me know and I’ll gladly supply you with a prototype. How about picking Scriptures and hymns for your own funeral? Don’t know where to start or where to keep it. Let me know and I’ll send you a form and once you’ve filled it out we’ll keep it in the church office. How about considering remembering the work of the church in your estate plan along with your family and other charities? Where does that fit into this, it is a great last claim about life, death and eternity. Even in the midst of your families grief you’ll be bearing witness again to your family that you trust that all you have is a gift from God and even though they are in the storm of loss you’ll be assuring them that you know God is good and that the work of the church must go on so that others can have the hope they do and the joy you do.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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