Today we remember the life of a loved one and we come together to commit the body to the ground. Earth to Earth, Dust to Dust and Ashes to Ashes, a very formal way of saying that we return the elements of her body back to the elements of the earth. She leaves children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews to live on in this life while she has moved into eternity.
Just before my mother died, she wrote a letter, that was read at her service, entitled: “Billie has a new address.” My mothers name was Billie Lou Reed. In the letter she described what awaited her when she would depart the body she had occupied for 73 years and what would happen to her when she arrived in heaven. Her new address is heaven and she wanted to invite whomever read her letter to come visit her. She explained how that was possible by believing in God’s Son and trusting Him for salvation.
Long ago a young man named David was in a great struggle. His very life was in danger and he wrote these words: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Psa 23:1-6 KJV)
David took from His experiences as a shepherd and His knowledge of God’s love for him to write these oft quoted verses. David was in turmoil yet he could trust his Shepherd, the keeper of his soul and he could lie down in peace in the midst of adversity; he could linger by the still waters; he could walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear because he knew that his shepherd had him, he was safe. He even had eternity in mind when he wrote: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. The Lord would lead Him but the Lord would also follow him with goodness and mercy for all his days, then he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. A Bible commentator wrote that the ancient Hebrews didn’t have a concept of eternity or heaven. I guess David didn’t get that memo, because David was looking forward to this life led by the great Shepherd and then after this life to be with the Lord forever.
David’s enemy was his boss, King Saul, a man burdened down with life and a man who had quit trusting God. There was nothing of this Psalm that Saul could lay claim to because the Lord wasn’t his shepherd. He had no peace or goodness or mercy. Saul was pursuing David unfairly and yet David didn’t hate Saul or try to get even, he just trusted God even though life was really hard sometimes.
Now, we come here today to commit the body to the ground and the soul to God but also to commend the living to live under the care of the Great Shepherd. We come to remember her life but also to reflect on what happens when we die. The Bible teaches that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Two words stand out; believes and perish. To believe is to completely trust in and commit to. If you believe that Jesus is real, that He is God’s Son, that God really sent Him and that if you receive Him you will have everlasting life, then you believe according to what the word believe means in this verse. The second word is perish. Perish is the opposite of everlasting life and it means continuance in spiritual death for eternity. Your body will die your soul will continue in the absence of life.
How is this possible? Jesus was sent by God to die. On the cross, He was made to be sin and sin was put to death. Three days later, Jesus rose from the grave, thus winning victory over both sin and death.
In Romans 10:9-10 we read….that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (NKJV)
In Romans 10:13 For "WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED. (NKJV)
And that salvation comes because of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s forgiveness of sin. Jesus taught the disciples to pray and then He underlined the importance of forgiveness. If we are not forgiven we will not have eternal life, instead a lake of fire awaits the unforgiven. But, if we are forgiven then eternal life is ours, if we forgive. In Matthew 6:13 we read; And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Mat 6:13-15 NKJV) If we want to be forgiven we must forgive. If we want to be delivered from the evil one, we must forgive.
Unforgiveness is a self administered poison that slowly puts us to death spiritually. We cannot be forgiven unless we forgive. It is moments like this where forgiveness becomes the healing balm that enables us to dwell on the good memories, to think of the good things, to embrace the inherited qualities that make life better. We can bury the bitter memories here but take the good with us for life. A few years before my father died I recorded an interview with him to be played at some future time. Only one thing he said really sticks in my memory. I asked him: “Dad, how do you want to be remembered.” There was a long pause before finally his tear choked answer came: “I did the best I could.” It may be that, for some the best, isn’t good enough, but that is where forgiveness comes in. We must forgive and then we can remember the good things. As we go from here, let’s remember the best and leave the rest. Let’s embrace the best part and live and do the best we can.