Funerals. A less than cheery subject at the best of times, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’ve been spared having to plan one as yet, but I’ve been thinking about my own this morning.
This isn’t because I am coming to terms with my imminent demise, although should I end up meeting an accidental death this afternoon, this post will be deeply prophetic. Nor is it because I’ve been in touch with the local undertakers and my funeral is now all paid for. I’m not the slightest bit bothered about what the casket looks like, what flowers I have and whether there are one or two cars of mourners, or whatever. You know what? Forget the casket, forget the flowers and most definitely forget the mourning. Stick me in a plain cardboard box, shove me under a tree in the garden, get your comfy clothes on and get over to whatever church I’m part of when I snuff it. Seriously.
I have Encounter With God Bible study notes from Scripture Union, which are part of my daily readings. This morning we were looking at 1 Chronicles 29: 10-20, where King David (of whom, according to some, there’s no evidence for), is coming to the end of his life and he is transferring the throne over to his son Solomon. Now, for those of you who have the impression that the Bible is a tale of perfect people, it should be noted here that Solomon was the result of David’s fling with Bathsheba, who was married at the time to Uriah, who David sent in to battle and effectively had killed so he could have Bathsheba to himself (2 Samuel 11). David was not perfect, but as people are fond of saying, ‘his heart was in the right place’. Yep, in the bed of another man’s wife *grin*. Actually, no; David was a ‘man after God’s own heart’ ( 1 Samuel 13:14), which is really all any person of God can hope to be. However much we try to put God first in our lives, we ARE going to mess up from time to time, because we’re NOT perfect. It’s what we do after the mess that’s the important thing. Do we stay down there or do we stand up, brush ourselves off, confess what we’ve done, accept the forgiveness and correction from God and move on? Choose the latter and you will be after God’s own heart yourself.
David, despite the messes he made in his life, always kept God at the heart of his life and God blessed him immensely. When he sensed that he was reaching the end, he called his people together for a celebration and to hand his throne over to Solomon, which is what we have here, in 1 Chronicles 29.
What struck me about this passage was the way that David did not focus on what he had done in his life; this was all about what God had done in his life. David recognised that everything had come from God: his status, his weath, his wisdom, his health and he gave every bit of praise and gratitude for that straight back to God. There is no crowing on David’s part about David being a wonderful king, just a lot of crowing about God being a wonderful God. David and his people celebrated who God was and what God had done through David. Wonderful!
And that got me thinking about my own funeral; or, more correctly, what I now hope will be a Celebration of what God has done in the life of Rachel Lewis. I really feel drawn to that. In my job as our church administrator I love seeing Orders of Service which are titled, A service of celebration or thanksgiving for the life of…. I see that especially amongst our congregation members, where we really do come together to celebrate their lives. It always makes me smile that you can usually pick out our church crowd fairly easily. They are the ones not wearing black. Clothing colour is irrelevant, it’s a come as you are unspoken call.
And for my own service that’s my first request: Come as you are, because that’s how I came to God. Come in your jeans, come in your comfy jumpers, come in your walking boots, your jogging bottoms or whatever, but please don’t feel you need to come in black. I remember my friend Mel, commenting that at her funeral she will be asking her husband to be stationed by the door, handing out gaudy tie-dye t-shirts to anyone who arrives wearing black. She wants a riot of colour at her funeral. I’m not bothered what you wear as long as you’ve got your bits covered up. I arrived in God’s presence ten years ago this October in much the same way as a car arrives at the scrap heap. Not working properly (or at all), rusty, dented and stuck in reverse. I’m so glad that God is a fan of Scrapheap Challenge as it’s taken nearly ten years to get this old banger back on the road and some of the really big dents pulled out. There’s lots of niggles with the engine, but the chassis is straightened out now and it’s mostly running in a straight line. It needs its tracking constantly checking though, as it’s apt to veer off the road at times and find itself running on the soft verge.
My second request is that you come to celebrate. This is not a demand that you turn up with a coathanger in your mouth to achieve a fixed smile, but that you come with the same attitude as you would to a party. I shall, all being well if I’ve got this right, be arriving in presence of Jesus and this is nothing to be mournful about, it’s what I want to happen. Tears are a natural product of celebration and I frequently find myself in tears during a normal Sunday service. This is either because the Holy Spirit is much in evidence or that I’m in tears laughing at something somebody did or said. Tears of sadness or mirth are welcome, but what I’d really love is hearts that want to celebrate. To assist the celebration, I shall be choosing a selection of lively songs for you to clap your hands to, wave them in the air or shake your booty about to. I do an awful lot of jigging about to worship songs. I can’t help it, I seemed to be in the same mould as David when he found himself dancing in the streets in praise of God (2 Samuel 6:16). I’m sure the people stood behind me have much the same reactions to my gyrations as Michal did to David’s. So there won’t be any dirges but there will be some quieter, more contemplative songs, as I do like some of the old stuff as well.
That you come to hear is my third request. This will be my final opportunity to share what God, through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit means to me and what He has done for me and through me. He’s spent nearly ten years fixing me up, and now He’s sending me out into His service using this skill of writing and communication that he’s given to me. I can’t begin to imagine what’s in store, but if it’s anything like the last few years then it will most definitely be life changing. I hope you’d want to hear about that.
And come for food, there absolutely will be food, because my church can’t do anything without food. It’s very important that there’s food for everyone.
So there it is. It’s lacking a few specifics – obviously me being dead is one of them – but I think that’s a working plan. It’s no use choosing songs right now, who knows what’s going to be around that I take to my heart in years to come. I have a batch of favourites that I’ll note down, but I’ll keep adding and removing from it as time goes by and people write more songs that I identify with. I have a never-ending list of favourite Bible passages and the lessons they have taught me through the years. There’s also a particular Fleetwood Mac song that I’ve decided has to be in there and no doubt I’ll find a way to shoe-horn in a bit of the West Wing, or Star Trek or something else along those lines.
When, in time you do get the letter / call / email / Facebook notification / Tweet / other yet-to-be-invented-form-of-social-networking-I’ll-embrace, that I’ve been called home, a very lovely Christian way of saying I’ve snuffed it; don’t be surprised if the word funeral isn’t mentioned.
And if it is… would you kindly point them in the direction of this blog post, please?
And no flowers, I am so rubbish at flower arranging.