A week ago Wednesday I received a phone from someone I hadn’t seen in a few years. A little way into the conversation he said to me, “Pastor, I would like you to conduct my funeral.” Now, usually when someone says something like this to me, I reach for the calendar app in my phone and ask (with my tongue in my cheek), “When would you like to book it?” However, this time, before I could say anything, he went on to say, “I anticipate dying this weekend. I will have my wife call you to make the arrangements!” This is the first time I can remember being surprised this way.
At that point, my thoughts changed directions quickly. I wanted to be sure that he had no plans to “assist Jesus” by moving the date forward (he did not) and that his eternity with Jesus was secure (it was). He had already discussed things with his wife and had arranged to speak with his children before the weekend. I planned to speak with him again on Saturday – but by the time I called that day, he was already in heaven.
Then this past Wednesday, before the office opened, I received another surprise. The individual surprising me had no clue that I was having problems with my sunglasses – or that I was planning on stopping by Dolan Optical sometime in the next week to get them fixed. This surprise came with the words, “My wife thought these would look good on you.” In the little case was a pair of brand new sunglasses that not only fit me perfectly, but also had lenses matching my current prescription (no surprise, if you are acquainted with the quality work the Dolans do).
The funeral was last night. No surprises – unless the good news of eternal life given freely through the death and resurrection of Jesus was a surprise to anyone there. Wait a minute … there was one more little Wednesday surprise. There were some bikers attending from a veteran’s group. Before the service one of them asked to me officiate at their “Blessing of the Bikes” this April. We will see if the offer still stands now that he has seen me officiate the funeral of his friend,
Last night I talked to the family about “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9.10) and then decided to also include the next verse, “For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.” (Proverbs 9.11) These words forced the question, “How does this apply to someone who went to heaven less than a month after his 67th birthday?”
Fortunately, Jesus provides us with the answer as he speaks these surprising words not only to Mary and Martha, but also to us. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11.25-26) Do you get it? The days Jesus gives to his own number more than we can count … and our years continue on throughout all eternity.
None of us know how long we will live on this earth any more than we know how long this pandemic will last. However, as someone who has been adopted into God’s family through baptism, here is one more promise that gives me great comfort. “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. … You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace.’” (Isaiah 55.8-9, 12)
As God in Christ Jesus grants me this kind of wisdom (faith), I am assured that “my days will be many, and years will be added to my life.” And the same promise is yours if you have been “buried with Christ by baptism into death” (Romans 6.3) Now the only real surprise awaiting us is exactly when we will see him face to face … None of us know when this will be, but I for one will be surprised if it is this coming Wednesday!