Summary: The way you live your life will determine what they will say about you at your funeral.
As you know I am preparing to attend my 35th high school reunion. This week I dug through the storage unit to find my Little Rock Central High School annual for 1967, my senior year. Couldn’t wait to get home to see those pictures. Lord, I was a dork! Looked like I was almost 12! And that hairdo! What was I thinking? Then I flipped to the front of the senior pictures and began remembering. I was in Key Club with him. He was the star quarterback, I was the waterboy. Really! Head water boy my junior year! The first girl I ever kissed! What did she see in me? Captain of the cheerleading sqad! One date with her to discover beauty is quite often on skin deep!
Then I started reading what people wrote in the annual. Very interesting. People who I hardly remembered wrote nice things. Of course, you never let anybody you don’t like sign your annual! But it made me wonder? What did people really think of me? What kind of person was I in high school? What will they say to themselves or somebody else when they see me at the reunion. Remember Eston Williams? What a ……nice guy? ...nerd? ...self-righteous hypocrite? What will they say about me?
That’s what I want you to ask yourself this morning. What will they say about me? Not a your reunion. At your funeral. Close your eyes and imagine with me that day when all your friends and family gather to bid you farewell. What will they be thinking? Visualize the seen. You are floating above the scene, hopefully with your little wings flapping away, just observing. There you are in that box in the front. And to your relief, everybody has showed up. And they all look appropriately grieved, sad that you are gone.
The preacher stands, does those preacherly things: praying, obituary reading, somebody sings “Amazing Grace” and then it’s time for the eulogy. The preacher says he really didn’t know you so he would like for the congregation to help remember you together. He invites people to simply say out loud one word that described you. There is a long uncomfortable silence as people exchange questioning glances. What will they say about me?
Finally a voice is raised. “Impatient!” (Was that one of your kids?) A look of surprise on many faces, but knowing grins seem to spread throughout the room. Another tense silence. “Short tempered!” “Irritable!” “Angry!” I think that was your spouse. “Unhappy.” “Troubled.” An understanding soul. Was that your mother? “Jealous.” Envious.” Here we go again. “Selfish” “Stingy.” “Unkind.” “Unreliable.” “Unfaithful.” “Out of control.” “Stern.” “Judgemental.” “Mean.” “Stubborn.” “Onery.” The preacher finally says, “Can’t anyone say anything nice about the deceased?” After a look of puzz;ed looks, an a long silence: “Never killed anybody……..that we know of!”
What will they say? When we have run our course, finished our days in this world, what will they say?
How will we be remembered?
In this little fantasy I have placed on the lips of the congregation what Paul refers to as the desires or works of the flesh, the behavior or attitudes which belong to what he called our lower or unspiritual nature, the sins of our earthly nature. The result, he suggests, of life apart from God.
Now I am certain that none of us are so bad that nobody will have anything good to say. But I am sure that each of us fears that a negative word or two might me on the minds of those with whom we have lived. We probably deserve a failing grade in some dimension of our lives. After all, we are human; none of us is perfect. But it does cause one to pause and think. What will they say?
Perhaps the more important question is “What would you hope that they would say?” What kind of life do you want to live, so that those things will be said of you when it is time for eulogies and goodbyes?
Let’s try that on for size. Let’s rewind our little fantasy to the beginning. Remember where we started?
The preacher stands, does those preacherly things: praying, obituary reading, somebody sings “Amazing Grace” and then it’s time for the eulogy. The preacher says he really didn’t know you so he would like for the congregation to help remember you together. He invites people to simply say out loud one word which describes you. There is a long uncomfortable silence as people exchange questioning glances. What will they say?
“Loving!” “Caring.” “Happy.” “At peace.” “Patient.” “Persistent.” “Kind.” “Compassionate.” “Good.” “Generous.” “Respectful.” “Faithful.” “A keeper of promises.” “Loyal.” “Gentle.” “Self-disciplined.”
That’s more like it, isn’t.
Now where do most sermons go from here? Let’s see I have held the mirror in front of your face. You have seen yourself as others most likely see you. You are deeply aware of your failures and shortcomings. Now I should threaten you that if you don’t change that is exactly what is going to happen. I should promise that if you do change, all will be heavenly. Then we will have twenty-four verses of “Just As I Am” waiting for everybody to repent of their sins and promise to do better.