This last week I have conducted a funeral and attended another. This coming week I will be involved in yet another and will unfortunately have to miss two additional funerals of friends, due to work commitments. It is strange how so often they all come together, yet of course the passing of loved ones, is a daily occurrence, 365 days a year.
Familiar words often used at funeral services are the words from Psalm 103, where we read,
‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children’.
The beginning of the Psalm calls us to Praise God and remember all his benefits and blessings to us, and the psalmist concludes 103 in the same way. However, in the middle verses the emphasis is on how ALL things of this world are fragile. All of life is here today and gone tomorrow.
How true that is. We never know what is around the corner, do we? Everything can be fine, and then in a split moment someone can have an accident and be in hospital before the day has ended. Or a loved one can be suddenly diagnosed with cancer or some other illness and be told they may have only weeks or even a few days, to live.
It is often said we should make the most of life and live for today. We must appreciate the NOW’, as we do not know what tomorrow will bring.
So, this psalm reminds us that material things do not last. Likewise in Matthew Ch 6 v 19-20, Jesus reminds us that we should not store up treasures on earth where moths will destroy them, or thieves will steal. Instead, Jesus tells us to store up treasures in heaven, where nothing or no one can take away or destroy.
All of this might sound rather doom and gloom, however, there is more to this psalm. In v17 we read, ‘BUT the Lord’s love is eternal. It is everlasting and goes on forever. What a contrast to the flowers of the field that quickly fade! What a big BUT that is!
In an ever-changing world, we can have hope in God who never changes. His love is constant, and his grace and mercy are never ending. God keeps his promises, and never forsakes us.
Another favourite passage of mine is found in John Ch. 21.
The occasion is after the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples are not sure what to do. They had seen Jesus die on the Cross, then he’d been raised from the dead and appeared to them in the Upper room. Everything was rather bewildering, and they would wonder what was going to happen next. So, Peter the fisherman, decided to go fishing. In other words, going back to something that was normal and what he was used to. He asked other disciples to join him, and they did.
It was an unusual night though because they caught nothing. Then early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore. He called out to them, telling them to throw their net out on the right side of the boat where they would find some fish. The men did as they were told and ended up with a huge number of fish in their net! Peter realised then, that this was the Lord on the beach, and he jumped out of the boat and swam ashore to him.
Why do I like this story? because it had been a long, dark, cold, and miserable night, BUT early in the morning Jesus stood on the shore.
Another fabulous BUT!
We may endure long, difficult, dark, and miserable nights, but we need to remember that Jesus stands on the shore. The disciples didn’t recognise Jesus at first, and perhaps our suffering, pain, sadness, anxiety, and so on, prevents us from seeing Jesus. Let us open our eyes and see that He is with us no matter what.
So then for the Psalmist, and for us, the grass withers and dies BUT God’s love is eternal. For the disciples, and perhaps for us, it can be a dark and miserable night, BUT early in the morning Jesus stands on the shore.