We have officially entered the Lenten season, the period of time on the Church calendar between Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, leading up to Good Friday and, of course, Resurrection Sunday. Easter was always a “big deal” in the little Pentecostal church where I cut my theological teeth, but Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, well that was seen as a Catholic thing. It was only the liberal churches that celebrated these other “holy days” and as for my church, we didn’t participate. It wasn’t until I was exposed to other church traditions that I learned about these amazing times of remembrance and their meaning and purpose. Although ashes on the forehead is still somewhat of a foreign language to me, I have come to appreciate its significance. It speaks of our mortality, since it was dust from where we came and to dust we shall return. Lenten season provides us the opportunity to focus on the eternal and not just the temporal.
I recently conducted a funeral and shared how the subject of death need not be a subject to be avoided, rather should be viewed as an opportunity to embrace what is a natural part of life. However, the truth is, discussing one’s memorial service and making end-of-life decisions is a bit uncomfortable. Therefore, too many of us ignore the inevitable and as a result leave the family or mate with the pressure of making funeral plans and other emotional decisions. The loving thing to do is to take the courageous step and discuss end-of-life issues with your family, attorney, physician, funeral director, and minister. Your family will thank you for it, and will allow them to process their sorrow rather than making tough decisions during those difficult days.
Conducting funerals and attending memorial services makes me ponder my own mortality. I’ve said I’m going to preach my own funeral service, via DVD, so I’m assured good things are said and the stories are told accurately. I’m convinced after I’m gone, I’ll have little to say if the video is played and my wishes are carried out. Recently people close to me have lost friends and family members and watching them grieve is painful. For some the only comfort many find during the grieving time is their belief in the promise of a better land that awaits the Christian. For others their comfort is in remembering their happy memories and re-living those times with healthy laughter.
One of my very favorite books is Tuesdays with Morrie, written by Mitch Albom, which was also made into a movie, with Jack Lemon starring in his last work as an actor. The thing I liked about the book was the way Morrie used his final days on earth to tie up loose ends. One of the things he did was attend his own funeral. That’s right. He had all of his friends and family conduct a celebration of life service where he could enjoy the laughter and kind words. I’m not that brave, but at least Morrie, “Did it his way.” So, if you need to gain the courage to prepare for your funeral, rent this movie, and you’ll be motivated.
We all need a little humor in the crazy time we are experiencing in this place called the Divided States of America. I think if we could all laugh together it may be amazing how much the things that divide us would just melt away. After all the Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22) So, find a good funny movie and laugh yourself happy.
I think those of us who love Jesus should be able to find some joy and beauty and hope in this journey called life because for the Christian the best is yet to come. Jesus himself made this possible. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)