Sermon Text: Life Before Death
Ever think about what they'll say at your funeral?
I have. I hope someone will say, "He was very down to earth for a guy who won 50 million dollars in the lottery." I also hope someone will say, "You know, he actually was not as annoying as he seemed." But what I REALLY hope someone will say at my funeral is this: "Look! He's moving!"
I bet you can relate. Most people don't really want to die. Life can be very hard, but, still, we don't want to die.
We are in the Great Fifty Days of Easter. This entire season reminds us that death is not the last word. Death is only the second-to-last word. The last word is resurrection. And that is because God is love, and Jesus is God's Word to all people, and he is risen.
I am not afraid of what comes after death. Woody Allen said, "I'm not afraid to die...I just don't want to be there when it happens." I agree with him.
I'm not afraid of what comes after death. I can leave all that in God's hands. I love the line from Psalm 23: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." I trust God to handle all the details of life after death.
But I am quite interested in life BEFORE death. And Psalm 23 says something important about that, too. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Those words are about life before death, life right here and now.
I pay attention to t-shirts. You can read interesting things on people's t-shirts. I've seen t-shirts that say "life is good." But, believe it or not, I've also seen t-shirts that say "life is crap." So which is it? Life is good, or life is crap...you have to choose.
I put my money on life being good. I know about suffering and hardship and pain. But I also believe that life is good.
Last week, I talked about practicing happiness. I think it's important to practice happiness. Life is good, and there are things we can do to increase our sense of life's goodness...things like keeping a thanksgiving journal, or finding flow experiences, or investing in good relationships, or practicing acts of kindness, or learning to savor and appreciate experiences.
There is suffering around us, but there is also joy. It's up to us what to pay attention to. I vote for joy. I vote for life being good. I don't believe life is crap.
Now, in spite of my joke when I started, I don't play the lottery. I don't need to play the lottery. You see, I'm rich already. I won the lottery when I got born.
When you understand a little about how a human being is conceived, and how our genes get together, and how we develop inside the womb of our mothers, you are amazed at how anyone is ever born. Life itself is a miracle. And I don't use that word lightly. Life is a miracle.
Anyone who gets born has, in effect, won the lottery. It started with just one tiny cell, and then two and then more and more, until it becomes millions, and then a galaxy of cells, and here I am, and there you are. After this miracle, we continue to win fabulous prizes:
parents who love us, teacher who help us grow, bodies which can heal after illness or injury, friends, lovers, delicious food to eat, blessed sleep at the end of a long day,
sunrises and sunsets, birds, dogs, cats, trees, and a whole natural world of beauty,
stories for entertainment and inspiration, books to read, music to hear, and on and on and on.
Some people say life is crap. And I suppose it is, sometimes.But in the Great Fifty Days of Easter, the church reminds us that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives.
So shouldn't life be lived with thanksgiving and celebration? Shouldn't Easter veto Lent?
Shouldn't joy be more significant than sorrow? The Risen Christ is God's yes. Easter is God's yes. Life is God's yes.
So what else can we do but live thankfully? What else can we do but say yes? What else can we do but share the goodness of life?
One little kid was learning Psalm 23 by heart, but got the first line just a little confused. The kid said, "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want." Pretty good translation, actually.
Another little girl had her heart set on a part in a play at school. Her mother worried that she'd be disappointed if she didn't get the part. But then the day came when the parts were assigned. The little girl came home from school, burst into the house, and said, "Mommy! Guess what! I've been chosen to clap and cheer!" That little girl had a moment of Zen and turned a disappointment into joy...because that little girl, I think, knows that life is good.
You and I have been chosen in life...chosen to clap and cheer...chosen to appreciate...
chosen to be alive and know that life is good.
Life is good. You and I have won the lottery. We have won big.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives.
And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.