The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
(Friends: I am conducting today a funeral service for a sister in Christ who went to be with our Lord this past Tuesday. I thought I'd send the outline of the message I will deliver, omitting personal references and anecdotes. Thanks, Glen).
"Present With the Lord"
When a loved one departs this world sooner than we anticipate, our hearts are rightly saddened. Be it an adult or child, we especially grieve when it seems that one has not fully completed their earthly journey. Scripture itself defines the norm of a lifespan as threescore and ten, 70 years. So, we find it especially challenging to say farewell to one who passes much earlier than we expect and hope.
This, of course, is the case with Mary. She left us too soon, according to our own expectation and desire. It is proper to feel this way, and to grieve accordingly. For those of us who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, of course, we rest our hearts in Him, and in the purposes of God that far transcend our ability to understand. The Apostle Paul stated the truth clearly, "For we know that all things work together for good to them who love God, and who are the called according to His purpose." Mary was one of those who lived in the assurance of such promise, and if she could be here with us today, she would echo emphatically, in the words of the Psalmist, "My times are in Thy hand" (Psalm 31:15). Mary's times are indeed in the Lord's hand, or rather now, her eternity is in His hand. Moreover, the times of her earthly sojourn were in her Lord's hands because long ago in her life, she had acknowledged such truth and placed her times in the nail-scarred hands of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mary believed with her heart in the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. She realized that God has given a Savior, that she needed a Savior, and that the Lord Jesus alone is that Savior. She trusted Him regarding both time and eternity, and I stand before you today in this time of sorrow to encourage also the rejoicing of knowing that for Mary "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." "This is the record" declared the Apostle John, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." Thus, let us rejoice that the spirit of our sister has ascended to her truest home, and that upon her Lord's return some day, her body shall be raised from corruption, changed in the twinkling of an eye, and reunited with her spirit forevermore. And so shall she, and all who trust in Christ, ever be with the Lord.
I wonder what Mary would say to us today, if she could speak to us from her Heavenly vantage point. Many things, of course, but I think mainly this: "Dear ones," she would say, "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is perfectly faithful, and His Word the Bible is true. He can and must be trusted with all your hearts, first, for salvation if you have not been born of His Spirit through faith in the Lord Jesus, and then for the living of a life that glorifies Him and fulfills His will if you have trusted Him.
Oh yes, if Mary could be with us today, I can assure you of this: she would come to anyone who has not trusted Christ, and in His love, she would implore you to believe with all your heart that God desires your redemption from sin. He promises forgiveness if you will believe in His Son, and He will grant unto you the eternal life that changes everything, both now and forever!
For those of us who have believed, Mary would come to us with just as much seriousness and sincerity. She would implore us to devote ourselves completely to the glory of God, the fulfillment of His will, the furtherance of His eternal purpose in Christ, and a life lived to exemplify and communicate Him to people. "To live is Christ" she would say, that is, to trust the Lord Jesus not only for salvation from our sin, but for the living of a life that reveals His grace and truth to our world. She would call us to keep our hearts and minds in His Word, to pray with humble, but confident sincerity, to trust and obey our Father in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to love others as the direct reflection of the love of God in our hearts, and our love for Him. Mary would encourage and challenge us not to waste the precious opportunity to walk with God in this fallen world, and to experience His filling our hearts with peace in turmoil, joy in sorrow, strength in weakness, life in death, and the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.
Finally, if we could know what Mary now knows, or more importantly, Who Mary now knows in far greater measure, we would still be saddened by her passing. But we would be even more gladdened by her homegoing and homecoming. The Lord Jesus Christ who made Mary, who sustained her during her lifetime, who saved her eternal spirit by the grace of His death and resurrection, and whom welcomed her home this past Tuesday, now blesses her with His direct presence in the Heavenlies. Nothing compares with the glory and wonder of such a One, indeed, with the Christ who, as Mary would tell us, must be trusted by all of us with all our hearts, and all our loving devotion.
I close today with a reading from I Thessalonians, wherein Paul graces our hearts with truth for this present hour, and assurance for the future:
"But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
(I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
Weekly Memory Verse
I will extol Thee, o God, my King, and I will bless Thy name forever and ever.