Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Sad Obituary

Someone handed me a sad obituary today. I never read the obituaries. In fact, I'm not sure if I have ever read one.

This particular one is for a 93 year old woman named Mary Agnes. After talking about her extravagant trips around the world and her pilgrimages to Las Vegas, it says:

"Mary Agnes was a very straightforward and candid person who could cause great frustration and grief to those around her. She did not accept the saying, "life isn't perfect" especially when it came to her life, in which creature comforts played a major role. But she could also be very generous and caring, was a devout Catholic and devoted to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary. Many times she appeared selfish and self-centered, but this behavior was mainly insecurity about being loved. Now enjoying the infinite love of God Almighty, hopefully she is saving us a place at the table of the Lord, a setting of true perfection."

A few observations:
1. Usually when someone dies, only good things are said about them. You have to be a real jerk to have someone actually tell the truth about you in an obituary. From this short paragraph about Mary, we learn that she caused grief to those she loved, she was consumed with comforts, she was selfish and self-centered, and she was insecure.

2. The writer of this paragraph justifies several sins with another sin. She was selfish and self-centered because she was insecure about being loved. In other words, the sin of selfishness is ok so long as it is built on insecurity. An insecurity that manifested itself to those around her may be the most serious sin in this paragraph.

3. The writer of this paragraph believes that Mary is in Heaven "enjoying" Christ. Now, God may have saved Mary in her final days. We do not pass final judgment on people's souls. However, if all we have to go on is this short paragraph, Mary is not enjoying the love of God, she is anguishing under the wrath of God. Why do humans do this? Why do we hide behind this kind of false assurance? Bottom line: She lived like the devil yet we want to believe she is now with God. When we do this, we communicate that the gospel is not true. If Mary is in Heaven, then why even try to please God? He is so loving that He will accept us no matter how we live.

4. May we live in such a way that the truth is spoken about us at our death. And, may the truth be: He/She ordered his/her life around Jesus Christ.

5 comments:

Sarah said...

I have always wondered what pastors would say when asked to lead a funeral when the person is not a christian but asked to comfort the family with saying this person went to be with the Lord. How in the world would you handle that Justin? What would you say to these people?

I was at a funeral not that long ago where people gave testemony to the life of this young man....and his family and pastor made it seem like he loved the Lord so much, but his friends painted a much different picture of his life. I pray that only one message is given at my memorial! That I do not have two seperate lives!!!! I pray that my memorial is not a mockery of the gospel bc I was not living out what I confessed with my mouth! That was just really scarey to me.....

Mark Redfern said...

Justin,

Observation #5:
A profound misunderstanding of how we get to heaven in the first place - as it is not through "devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary" but repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Phillip M. Way said...

Quote:
I have always wondered what pastors would say when asked to lead a funeral when the person is not a christian but asked to comfort the family with saying this person went to be with the Lord.

Reply:
In my experience I have found it best to say the same thing at every funeral - for a saved person or a lost person. What would that be?

I use the lesson of Luke 16:19-31 (without using the reference). The rich man who died and went to hell pleaded for someone to be sent back to warn his still living brothers, and the reply is that if they do not hear "Moses and the prophets" (the Word of God) then they will not listen to one even raised from the dead!

I usually phrase it that since this person has stepped into eternity, if they had the opportunity to come back and get one message across, it would the message of the gospel. This is true for a believer, or for a lost person. If they could come back, don't you know they would plead with their family and friends to repent of their sin and turn to Christ in faith!

The key to an effective funeral is to point to Christ. If the person was obviously saved, then the family can take great comfort in that. If on the other hand I am given reasons to seriously question their salvation, then I just play it safe, and instead of saying that they are in heaven, I preach that their only hope, and ours, is the grace of God! And I preach the gospel!!

I would never give anyone false hopes. I would also never speak at a funeral and say that a person went to hell when they died. We canot know that infallibly and a funeral is not the time for hellfire preaching! So we look at their life, praise the good, point to Christ, and tell the truth about every persons need for Christ.

~pastorway

Sarah said...

Just had a thought-

"Usually when someone dies, only good things are said about them. You have to be a real jerk to have someone actually tell the truth about you in an obituary."

I was thinking....or, you would have to be a real jerk to say something like that about someone in thier obituary! Even if it was the truth!

justin said...

Mark, great 5th observation. I guess I was assuming that. But, I need to assume less.

Sarah, yes, everyone here at the church was amazed that someone would write that in an obituary. The only conclusion: it must be true.

I have never done a funeral message and have some real study and prayer to do in preparation for the day when I will be thrust into one.