From the Pulpit: How do we make each day count?
I recently went to the funeral of a decorated and talented Air Force veteran. Let me rephrase that, or, as contemporary politicians like to say, “Let me walk that statement back.”
I recently tried to go to the funeral of a decorated and talented Air Force veteran. In truth, I missed the entire ceremony and only arrived in time to be the last in line for the post-burial luncheon of ham sandwiches and scalloped potatoes. Unfortunately, the near-complete flooding of the roads around the rural church in southwestern Wisconsin kept me from arriving in time.
Because of the lack of cell phone connection in this hilly area, I was reduced to using a paper map and asking locals for directions — or even suggestions. Most of the men reading this will understand the challenge of asking for those directions. Still, as a pastor, I am often called on to “go the extra mile.”
At least three of the Wisconsin natives I spoke to asked me if “getting to the funeral was important.” I am sure they were thinking of the danger of the flooded roads. However, their repeated question made me ask myself, “Why we do make the effort to attend funerals?” After all, the person we are paying our respects to has already died.
Three reasons for funeral services came to my mind on the long, wet trip home.
First, we want to honor our loved one who has died and their family. In my case, I did not actually know Captain Keeling, a pilot who flew the F-86 Sabre and T-33 Shooting Star. Instead, his daughter is one of my co-workers and a close personal friend of my wife and me. I attempted to get to the funeral to honor our friend and to pay respects to the family in their loss.
In a world which has become less and less personal, reaching out in these incredibly intimate moments becomes more and more important.
Second, we have funerals to comfort the broken hearted. We find comfort in remembering how a loved one has touched our lives. We receive comfort when we are reminded that death is not the end. Of course, our greatest comfort is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He promised through the author of Hebrews, “I will never leave you ... nor forsake you.” It is through a relationship with Christ that we are able to say as the Psalmist, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
Third, we go to funerals because they help prepare us for life. In reality none of us are given a choice about whether to meet death, or even when to meet death, only how to meet death. When we understand we will all die, it helps us get serious about living in the present tense.
In Psalm 90:12 we read, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” This is not a macabre order to mark each of our allotted days off on a calendar. Instead, it is a prayer that God will help us to live purposeful lives, which is the path of true wisdom. To do this, we must ask ourselves, “How do we make each day count for God?”
Getting lost on Wisconsin’s backroads is a bit humiliating, especially when you are trying to get to something as important as a funeral. Still, losing our way in life is even worse. As a Muslim author wrote, “Sometimes the best way to find your road is to get lost. Sometimes the only way to find a way is to get lost.”