"Birthdays and Funerals"
Birthdays and funerals...These two words are in sharp contrast, aren’t they? On the one hand, the birthday of a child is one of joy. All the expectation of the birth after weeks and weeks (and weeks) of the mother preparing for the birth of her child is one that finds relief after delivery. Sure, there are the adjustments the mother’s body endures after delivery, then the nursing, caring, and cuddling of the child as this dear little one stretches, fusses, gets love and hugs, and all the attention, as this little one needs care after birth.
Funerals, on the other hand, bring grief. All the expectation of life comes to an end after years and years (and, well for some, those years aren’t enough) of the person expecting to live to be 100. True, there may be relief in death-the pain and suffering due to an illness or lengthy encounter with a disease are gone, but the hopes and dreams of life come to an abrupt end. The body has endured the growth, the celebrations of many birthdays, then the caring of others as the body slips into pain and misery...you know the story.
This Pentecost season we had the unique opportunity to observe both a birthday and a funeral for John the Baptizer. Some may know him as John the Baptist, but the operative title "Baptizer" fits him better, so as not to confuse him with a denomination using the name Baptist.
On the last Sunday of June, we celebrated his birth. On the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, July 15, we observe his death and funeral. The events of John the Baptizer’s death are wrapped in devilish and selfish motives. Evil lurked behind his life. At his birthday party, King Herod gave a banquet, but had a little too much to drink. He wasn’t in his right mind. That led to the disaster that would come to John the Baptizer. The account is in Mark 6:14-29.
John’s disciples took care of his body and laid it in a tomb. Thus is the end of John’s earthly life. So will be the end of our lives, for once we die, we are laid in our tomb-buried in the ground.
But not without hope! Death is not a subject on everyone’s favorite list. Birthdays, however, are a hot topic. Yet the Christian life is one of birthdays...begin born again. We celebrate the new life in Christ. As our children learned in our Vacation Bible School, God promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus. We celebrate that birthday life every day as we receive Jesus’ forgiveness, life, and salvation. You may be experiencing the pain of suffering or loss, or disappointments, or even grief over someone’s death. Jesus brings hope. That’s why we rejoice with the Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 1: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing..." You are blessed! Thanks be to God!
The Christian Steward is mindful of all the blessings God has given him or her. That includes plans for life’s end. How do you wish others to know about your belief and confession of Jesus Christ as your only Lord and Savior? How will your family and friends know for certain that you will spend eternity in heaven with Jesus? Have you selected those Bible verses which have encouraged your faith? Are their hymns that sing your faith? Take the time today to jot those down. Let us know at the Church office of your thoughts. Knowing how you have planned for your life’s end can help you celebrate your daily life even more, for you trust God to bless you and keep you all the days of your life, and that your life will be guided in the ways of the peace of Jesus!
Pastor Ron Brauer