WHEN YOU CAN SEE LIFE’S FINISH LINE
II Kings 2: 1; 9-12a; John 16: 16-22
Astutelisteners to the sermons this month will note a pattern: this is the thirdmessage this month about the end of life! There are reasons for this:
1)People have asked me toaddress this topic
2)Widows and children Iknow have lost their loved ones more quickly than they had planned.
3)May is the traditionalmonth to talk about planned gifts, and we have such a committee
4)A good teacher knows thevalue of repetition
5)I see that people whoknow their time is short prioritize their lives differently, putting firstthings first better than those who think they have decades to live.
Thosewho know they might not live as long as they would like to, do some life-givingthings. Take for example, thechance meeting of characters portrayed by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson:from just one movie, the world has a new phrase at their fingertips: TheBucket List! Now everyone knows thata bucket list is the list of things you want to do before you die. Sometimesthey can be exhilarating, like sky diving, or driving a race car; but othertimes they can be meaningful, like talk out issues with your son, or plan tolearn more about God. When you seelife’s finish line, you move your bucket list onto your front burner. Sosuppose that you lived your days working off of your bucket list rather thanjust putting off until tomorrow what you could do today? How would your life bedifferent? What if, God forbid, you do not have a tomorrow? Have you said what youneed to say; done what you need to do; arranged what you need to arrange? Coulda designated relative find your important papers with your instructions onthem? Do you have any importantpapers with your instructions on them? Are they locked away in a safe depositbox that no one will have the key to open!? Is your financial house in order?Is your spiritual house in order? Is your physical house in order? I remembermy grandmother calling her grandchildren into her living room one by one whenwe were teenagers. “Jeffrey” she said, “It would give me such pleasure to knowthat when I die you will have something of mine that you would treasure. Isthere something in the house that you would like to have?” Of course I said“Don’t talk like that! You’re going to live a long time!” (And isn’t that whatmost of us would say? She DID live longer than a day, but not as long as adecade, but her question and the answers she got gave her peace.) Afterthinking a minute I said, “Well, I do like books and I’ve always liked yourbookcase at the bottom of the stairs.” Her face beamed; “Well then, take thispiece of masking tape, write your name on it with this marker, and put it onthe bottom of the furniture. When I die, it’s yours.” To this day it sits justoutside our dining room and I look at it every day. She did the same with herother grandchildren. It gave us a bridge for remembering her with somethingright before our eyes. When you can see life’s finish line, you do such things.It is wise people who do it before theycan see their finish line. I don’t do those things perfectly; I have a will,but haven’t completed a living will yet; I’ve put in writing my love of andgratitude for my children, wife, and parents, but that could be done again.They are good to keep current.
Anothergood thing to do is teach a child, a colleague, a spouse, or a co-worker how todo the essential things that you do. I know one person who has written down indetail exactly who to contact and what to do if he were to die today. That is agood idea. I know that I know some things about this church that I’ve acquiredover the last 24 years that I try to pass on to elders and staff; I tried tolearn what Romie Morgan knew about this building, and I tried to learn what RayAmmon knew about this building, and I’m still trying to learn what Mike Yatsukknows about this building. Much of it I share with Cara and with other eldersso I don’t take my knowledge to the grave! Having a protégé learning from youis a good idea! Remember the text in II Kings 2? Elijah was the greatestprophet Israel had ever seen, but he became burnt out and aged eventually. Look what happened with them: “Now whenthe Lord was about to take Elijah up to Heaven,” Elijah and Elisha weretogether. Elisha didn’t say “Ifonly I had half of the blessings of God that you have sir!” No! Elisha wasbolder than that: “Sir would that I could have a double share of your spirit!”Indeed, Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah—literally and figuratively—anddid some amazing work partly because he was mentored by Elijah. In John’sgospel, the disciples are almost portrayed as children: “What does he mean bysaying ‘In a little while you will no longer see me?’” Instructing andrepairing relationships now is better than hoping that, like a Hollywood movie,you will have a last breath in which to reconcile with others. It may or maynot happen.
Manyof you will remember Robin Williams in the film “Dead Poet’s Society.” As Mr. Keating at an exclusivePrep School, he took his class out into the hallway and showed them photos ofall the stars of yesterday. “Lads; they are worm food now! Feeding daffodils!Seize the day, men! Carpe Diem!” This weekend we remember those who fought forAmerica in her times of war. We can visit their graves in Arlington Cemetery,the veteran’s cemetery
here in Bushnell Florida, and in countless othercemeteries. We can look at their pictures, tell their stories, and if we’relucky, see some contents of their treasure boxes. But how much better it is tolook at the names on our prayer list, and to connect with men and women in andout of the service, and check on them now? To learn as Elisha learned; to tryto understand as the disciples tried to understand; to listen and share now isa better way. It is time to seize the day!
Thepopular Christian group MerceMe has a song called “Finally Home” that includesthese words: “I’m gonna wrap my arms around my daddy’s neck and tell him thatI’ve missed him, and tell him all about the man that I became and hope that itpleases him. There’s so much I want to say, there’s so much I want you to know,when I finally make it home; when I finally make it home.” All well and good if that’s the bestyou can do. But what if you could say those things now? In our anthem todaythese words were sung: “Goin’ home; goin’ home I’m jest goin’ home; quiet-like,still some day, I’m jest goin’ home. It’s not far, jest close by, through anopen door; work all done, care laid by, goin’ to fear no more. Mother’s there,‘spectin’ me, father’s waitin’ too; lots of folks gathered there, all thesaints I knew.”
Acrosslife’s finish line, for those who have loved the Lord and loved others there isthe hope of a grand reunion, with sharing, laughing, and loving. I imagine I’llsee my grandmother too. But what a memory she created on this side of heaven,by creating a bond between us the rest of her days! We shared so much while shewas alive! Her gift gave her peacethen, and it reminds me of her every day. What might be better for you to donow, than wish you had done it later?
JeffreyA. Sumner May30, 2010