Dream word – LIVE
“Better to go to the house of mourning Than to go to the house of feasting, For that is the end of all men; And the living will take it to heart.” NKJV
Laugh, love, live and leave the rest to God
Once upon a time, a long time ago I worked in a fish and chip shop. I worked with varicose veined, permed and hair-dyed, hard and big bosomed ladies who would beat the snot out of you if you put a foot wrong! I worked at Boden’s fish and chip shop before I joined the Royal Navy and it was these same buxom beauties who increased my colourful language set so considerably that, whilst in the service of her Majesty, I did not fall short of any apt or choice word and also was so linguistically enabled that I fully understood what the parade ground instructors were trying to sincerely communicate to me. Many nights in basic training, I remember that I was so very pleased to have in my possession, a hard copy of my birth certificate. I read if often just to assure me that what the parade ground instructors were calling me wasn’t true! Yes I was little, but contrary to their loud, forceful and your face, spitting suggestions, I was also legitimate.
Now it was one of these same buxom ladies of Boden’s fish and chip shop, over a smoke and a hot greasy cup of tea who opened up to me and shared with me her terrors, her big and bloodshot bulbous eyes almost bursting with fear as she recounted her one haunting nightmare! Talking about it seemed to help, so she recounted to me that she had been to the doctors for help in the matter but it didn’t help, and in fact, yes even so, she still insisted that on her death, she be placed in a glass coffin, with air holes drilled in the top of it. In addition, the lid of her coffin should have a latch fixed to it that could be opened from the inside and the location her planting, would be far above the soil, even on top of a mountain. Yes, this tough and rough, grouchy and gruff, working class washer woman, had a crippling fear of being buried alive!
Thomas A Kempis, that long deceased Roman Catholic monk is so much respected by Protestants that his book The Imitation of Christ is still standard fare in spiritual discipline classes in most modern day seminaries. Thomas still speaks of Jesus today and his life of quiet contemplation is still envied and pursued by many modern day pilgrims. You would think that such a man would have been now made a saint by the Roman Church, but no, Thomas failed the test as soon as his body was exhumed, for you see, the folks that recommend old monks for beatification, reckoned that Thomas did not accept his fate too well, certainly not well enough to be made a saint anyhow! You see, when they exhumed his body and took the lid off, there was more than enough indication both in the coffin wood and on the corpse remains, that this poor man was buried alive! Like many folks at that time, Thomas may have looked dead, but like many folks at that time, he revived when he was in the ground. Maybe my chip shop mentor was right to be concerned about the manner of her being laid to “rest”?
Most Christians, like most people who are not Christians, do not fear death, but rather fear the manner of their death. We are all dying, we all know this. However, we refuse to face the facts of our ever impending demise as well as the manner of our departure. That is, until the long night of all our days draws in and our shadows lengthen on the ground. That is, until the doctor wants us to come into his office for a chat. That is, until someone close to us is snatched away in their prime, out of time, with all their dreams like unopened Christmas presents strewn along the road to the cemetery. So, I remind you tonight Christian friend, that unless the Lord returns in your life time, you too shall die and the coroner shall record the cause of your death, and your watching family and friends shall recount the manner of it.
Most folks want their death to be dignified, to be swift, uncomplicated, ’tween white cotton sheets, with the family looking on. Most want to impart some final words of wisdom and then with a satisfied sigh, shuffle gently off their mortal coil with as much honour and dignity as can be mustered. However, the business of dying, is rarely that way.
Thomas, that quiet contemplative, after a life of sacrificial service, after a life of being a living signpost, closes his lids in the hope of opening them in heaven, only when he does open them, he finds that his train has not yet arrived and God help us, it has stopped at Gravesend. Nasty! Stephen beholds Christ stood at God’s right hand and then gets a few rocks in the head to crush him into heaven. Tradition has it that Isaiah, that visionary extraordinaire, dies in a devilish and maniacal magic trick, as he gets sawn in half. I bet he didn’t accept his fate too readily either! Others are eaten alive by flame or festering fungus, hung, drawn, quartered, blown up, gassed, drowned, speared, scalped, frozen, starved, dismembered and even despaired to death.
Friends, save for that coming twinkling eye moment, there are obviously no guarantees regarding the method of our departure. Now I do not think tonight that joining EXIT is an option for anyone, never mind the Christian! No, in this strange fallen world, it is still right for us followers of Jesus to always choose life, both for ourselves and for others. This means that in the vast majority of cases the method of our departure is not our decision. Sure, our manner of death, like our life, is influenced by our choices. For example, if you play on the railroad tracks, or jump into a shark infested pool, you can somewhat guarantee the method of your departure. However, apart from that, from our human perspective, the manner of our death is pretty much a crap shoot.
The truth is that we cannot even guarantee the manner of our life dear friend, and so in the end, how can we continuous choosers of life, begin to guarantee the manner of our death? We can’t! No, the only thing we can guarantee is the attitude in which we shall approach the manner of our death. I’m throwing you a bone I know, but it’s the only one I’ve got!
So how then should we die? Well may I say that we should die in the same way in which we live! Be brave, be strong and be as courageous as you possibly can be. Look for angels along the way. Look for Jesus at the end of your road, the end of your bed, the end of your rope. Let go of that which passing and lay hold on matters eternal. If we live like this then our attitude in the manner of our death might just well reflect some of it! I suppose tonight that I am encouraging you to live like a dying man. In other words, I am calling you to courage, calling you to strength and life, even in death and especially in the manner of your death.
Tomorrow when you get up, laugh, love, live and leave the rest to God. In this fallen world, that’s as good as it gets but even that, can be pretty good!
Listen: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” - John 10:10 NKJV
Pray: O Lord of life, let me not be robbed of it this side of heaven, amen and amen!
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