Summary: What really matters in life.
I have done 3 funerals in the last month. I’m getting tired of doing them, so all of you knock it off. I don’t want to do any more funerals for a while. Two of the funerals I did I didn’t know the people personally, so their families had to give me something to talk about at the funeral. It is a little surreal to listen to family members describe someone to me, trying to sum up their loved one’s life; what they were interested in, what good things they did, how they touched people. And all of what they tell me is completely true. The folks I have done the funerals for were amazing people. They were generous with their time and possessions. They treated others well, they were loving people. But it is still an odd exercise, or an odd task to try to summarize a person, their hopes and dreams, their passions and interests in such a way to help mourners remember them well.
For me at least, it has helped me focus on what really matters in this life. I mourn for people who’s claim to fame was that they had a great model train set, or had an interesting collection of WW1 memorabilia or whatever. Not that that sort of stuff is bad or wrong, but it shouldn’t define us. Having a spectacular Star Trek collection is interesting, I guess, but Heaven help us if that is what people remember about us after we’re gone. Heaven help us if that is on our gravestones: Dave Moore, enjoyed playing volleyball.
We want our lives to mean more than that. We want to focus in this life on the things that really matter. Stuff is nice, I suppose it is nice to have stuff, but if stuff is our all-consuming quest, then we are miles from where we should be. This life is about getting to know God, it is about preparing for the next life. St. Paul discusses this in Philippians chapter 3, verses 1-11.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
We are still heading through Philippians. Philippians is Paul’s letter of joy, but occasionally he will digress and a little of his passion shows through. Paul loves the Philippians, they are headed in the right direction, but there are possible distractions looming on the horizon for the Philippian church. As Paul sits in jail, writing this letter, he knows of the other churches fighting against legalism, against the Jewish Christians who are telling the non-Jewish converts how to become a Christian.
Essentially, the Judaizers as they are called, are traveling from church to church, churches Paul himself has planted, and have begun telling all these Gentile converts, all these Greek people who have started attending this new church, that they are required to become Jews before they can become Christians. Paul thinks this is bad; for several reasons. First, Jesus never required anyone to become a Jew before they could follow him. Jesus in Luke 7 encounters a Roman centurian, whose faith is stronger than any of the Jews Jesus had met. Jesus says this, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” So Paul knows converts don’t have to become Jews before becoming Christians. Second, in order to become a Jew, the males had to be circumcised. Ask any guy these days, they’ll tell you that is a bit of a deterrent. Christians have never been in the business of keeping people away from Christ, rather it is our joy and job to bring people to Christ, and let Him change them, let Him deal with them rather than flawed us.