Last Saturday, August 1st, was my birthday. It was number 58, in a series that began in 1957 and will run until…well, I don’t have the foggiest idea when it will come to an end.
Birthdays in our family are traditionally celebrated in some fashion, although the fashion in which mine was marked this year was a bit unusual. We were on the road and out of town for a week, so the celebration was in multiple segments.
There was cake, a card and a gift with my in-laws last Thursday. The on Saturday there was another card and some singing from a few of my family members. And after returning home late last night the festivities will conclude this evening, with cake, ice cream and a few gifts from my wife and our youngest daughter.
And, thanks to Facebook, my birthday this year had what must be the highest number of well-wishes that I have ever received. All day long there were short notes of greeting and wishes for the best for me on that day.
And in many ways it was a very good day, a day that of all my birthdays provided memories that will be particularly treasured. For on my birthday I went to a funeral.
An uncle, the husband of my father's sister, died in mid-July, and the best date for our family to get together to worship God and remember him, was on my birthday. And while a number of my relatives gathered on Saturday in Wisconsin for his funeral there was another group of relatives gathered the same day in Florida for the funeral of my mother's youngest sister, who died last week.
I was unable to attend my aunt's funeral but saw that part of the scripture used on that day was from Romans 4. Verses 23-24 say,
"But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."
At my uncle's funeral we heard from Philippians, Romans, and John, which said,
"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again." Philippians 1:18b-26
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;1 believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6
These are powerful passages from scripture that point to true hope. They point to a hope found only in God, a God who never fails to deliver on His promises. We may have gathered in Wisconsin and Florida with heavy hearts, remembering family members we loved dearly and will never see on this earth again. But at the funeral I attended we were reminded that God has greater things in store for His children than anything that this world may hold.
We were reminded that my uncle, my aunt, and all who pass from this life with faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, are at this very moment in His very presence, and giving Him the praise and glory that only He deserves. While it may run against the logic of the world, I found it to be a very precious gift to be able to gather with God's people, at a funeral on my birthday, in such a powerful time of worship of my Savior. To Him be glory, now and forever. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.