On Thursday last week I was involved in the funeral and Thanksgiving Service for my aunt. It was a sad time for me, especially as I led the graveside burial which reminded me of leading a very similar service for my own father a little over a year ago.
It was the Thanksgiving Service however that really made me think. I learnt much about my aunt’s life as one often does at funerals. I learnt of her devotion to God, her commitment to sharing the Gospel, the quiet and gentle way in which she touched the lives of many, many people on different continents, her love for the people of India and her willingness to follow God’s leading whatever that meant and wherever it led her. She was a remarkable saint and I regret not knowing her better.
There were two moments in the Thanksgiving Service that I found deeply challenging. The first was in part of the tribute given by her granddaughter. She had spent the last hours with my aunt and, having read sixty or more Psalms to her, had fallen asleep. She awoke in the early hours and sensed that my aunt’s life was about to end. Instead of tears or sadness she spoke with real energy and excitement about being with her grandmother when she died to this earthly life. “Is he here? Is Jesus here? Is he coming for you?” Those were the last earthly words my aunt heard.
“If we think about our death, we will learn to live our lives!” (quoted recently on Twitter). I know from her granddaughter’s tribute that in her last days my aunt thought about her death, not in fear or dread, but in joy and anticipation. She could truly have said with St Paul “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” Phil 1:21 and “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me — the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.” 2 Tim 4:7-8
The challenge for me is how much am I truly living for Christ and do I have the same attitude to death that my aunt had?
As part of the Thanksgiving Service George Verwer gave a tribute. For those who haven’t heard of George Verwer he founded Operation Mobilisation (OM). According to Wikipedia “OM currently has more than 6,100 people working in more than 110 countries around the world, seeking to demonstrate and proclaim the love of God.” He said very little about the life of my aunt! Instead he gave an encouragement to those present under the age of 25 and a challenge to my aunt’s family (which includes me!). The encouragement to those under 25 was to be used by God in transformation of the world for God.
The challenge for my family was “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” Lk 12:48. I am aware of how much has been given to our family. I count it a privilege to have been brought up in a family with a Christian heritage that stretches back through the generations. I know I am one to whom spiritually much has been given, by my parents and grandparents and by the love and prayers of my wider family. God has invested much in me through my family and I feel a weight of responsibility to use that investment for the best return in the a kingdom of God. Yet I know at the same time that Jesus himself said “My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” Matt 11:30.
George Verwer’s words made me stop and think. Each of us has a heritage from the generations before us. That may be through the generations who have worshipped God before us and invested so that we could know the joy of a living relationship with Jesus. It may also, like me, be through parents and grandparents who love Jesus and pray regularly for us. The question for me, for us, is what heritage we will pass on to those amongst whom we live and to the next generation? It isn’t a heritage in bank vaults or buildings, but in lives touched by God’s Kingdom and transformed by His love and power.
I saw this short video today that made me think CLICK HERE to view it in YouTube: