Death and taxes are the only sure things. No one is getting out of this life alive. When someone checks out of this life, people gather to remember them and express condolences to the family left behind. But these times are not about death. Sure, the method by which they departed is usually mentioned, but the intention of the gathering is to celebrate the person. To speak of their life. To extol their impact on the world and on others. Some even title the gathering a “Celebration of Life” or “A Memorial to the Life of…” Every single person’s journey on terra firma impacts others. It is like a rock thrown into a pond. When the rock lands, the ripples begin – and they continue until that rock is still.
I have heard it said of life that a dash just doesn’t do it justice. We represent someone’s life by giving a birth date, then a dash, then a death date. The dates listed get more publicity than the actual LIFE that was lived. It really is all about the dash! What are we doing with our dash?
A popular scripture for Celebration of Life services is the 23rd Psalm. Even if you are not a student of the Bible, you recognize the lyrics: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” The verse that makes it the passage of choice for these occasions is the 4th one. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….” But guess what? The passage isn’t about death! It is about LIFE! Life on this earth, and then eternal life once we have passed through this one.
My first statement restated – this life is always overshadowed by death because it is inevitable. The 23rd Psalm was written as King David figures out the key to making the most of LIFE! Do it with the Lord close by our side! As our Shepherd, He leads. Sheep know their shepherd so well, they trust him and follow him anywhere, without fear. David saw that the Lord led him to green pastures. I’m sure there was some dung in that pasture, some stinging insects, some things less than pleasant, but the sheep are with the shepherd who will take care them through all of all that by giving them strength. With him, I am well-fed, well-watered, and want for nothing. Does that mean I get everything I want? Nope. And discipline borne out of love comes sometimes. But my now is taken care of, and my future is secure. That alone is an overflowing cup! Best of all, I am not alone because someone who is larger than this life is looking out for me and my best interest.
When we get to heaven to be with our Shepherd for the long run, the Lord is going to host a heck of a party in our honor. Just because He loves us. I love parties! Mainly because our loved ones are there and it is a celebration. This one will trump them all. He will put my enemies to shame. He has anointed me as a child of His. Since He is King of kings, I am royalty!! I inherit EVERYTHING! Descriptions of heaven include feasting and riches and joy. There is no sorrow or pain or darkness. What’s not to love?!
In the meantime, He is pursuing us here with His love and mercy. He gives us gifts we don’t deserve and keeps us from things that we do deserve.
That is the kind of God we serve – one who loves LIFE! So much so that He offers for us to spend it with Him in heaven FOREVER.
I have been to some Celebrations of Life in the last two weeks for some earthly GIANTS. They loved God, and family, and community. They labored with love at every one of those relationships, to the glory of God the Father and Christ, His Son. The legacy they left was that they left it all on the field. They held nothing back. And now they have received the “crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, [awarded to them on that day] – and not only to [them], but also to all who have longed for His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
LIFE. That is what it is all about!