LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION ARTICLE FOR
January 5, 2013 by William H. Scarle, Jr.
Life has changed again for me as we enter the new year. My beloved wife and companion for twenty-eight and a half years has gone to be with Jesus. Joan passed on to heaven on Friday morning, December 28 at 7:30. She was resting following being bathed and dressed by the Hospice nurse who had watched over her through the night.
A Memorial service will be held at our church on Saturday morning, January 5. Until we meet again memories are what I have, and they are overwhelmingly good. Hymn words become very specific at turning points in our lives. “When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.”
Death is a conundrum for humanity no matter what one’s religion or world view might be. Life is essentially oriented toward growth. We gain stature. We gain knowledge. Some of us gain wealth. Everyone gains experience as the days move on. The preacher in Ecclesiastes envisions a world without God and without eternity and concludes that moving on is simply “Vanity of vanities.” Death destroys everything that has been gained, whatever it may be worth. If you never get to the end of the book, it is a sad commentary on the existence of humanity.
However, this is precisely Solomon’s point. It is only if you eliminate eternity from the equation of life that you get zero (Eccl. 3:11). God did not create us to die but to live. Our disobedience brought death into the formula. God, in his mercy, countered our disobedience with his gift of salvation in the coming of Messiah and his work of sacrificial love beginning at Bethlehem and finishing at Calvary. Death, for the believer, is painful but not final. Memories can be of meaningful steps in the process of growing into that maturity that culminates beyond this life in the presence of the God who made us and the Messiah who redeemed us. In the words of a famous sit-com we are still “Movin on up.”
My daughter Grace and her husband Michael will be with us for the Memorial Service. They are both talented musicians and Grace offered to sing at the service. She wanted to know what I would like. My memory moved back to a trip to Israel when Grace and Michael were also traveling with Joan and me. We were all gathered at the location of the Upper Room on Mount Zion. It was a time for reflection on the Last Supper and the birth of the early Church. Grace sang for us on that occasion, and the song she chose was “Via Dolorosa,” or “The Way of Sorrows.” I asked her to sing that song at the Memorial Service.
Jesus walked the “Way of Sorrows” so that from the cross he could say to the sinner who repented, “This day you will be with me in Paradise.” For Christians death is not the end of the road. Life is not “Vanity of vanities.” It is painful but it is not final. We move on, and we keep growing.
This has been a bit more personal than my usual offering. I hope my readers will understand and even be encouraged. Thank you for your understanding and your prayers.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org).