When I served the church as a pastor I had the responsibility to pray for new babies, to lead marriage ceremonies and to assist funeral services. The funeral services that I have held inevitably ended at the cemetery, where a place or marker is established as a final resting place.
Recently after a meeting, I drove past a large cemetery where two of my family have their bodies laid. I drove in and walked around locating the place, the marble marker with their names engraved into metal. Silently I just sat, thinking about them, their lives, the memories, and the effect of these two people in my life. As I sat, I prayed, I looked around and read many of the inscriptions, the names and dates, the families that would come to remember these lives.
What’s the point in writing this? Well the cemetery is a place where I often find a renewed vision. It is so easy to put financial success, material acquisitions, the big holidays or the new car at the top of our lives. Working hard to achieve these things and find our value, to buy more, to obtain more in my opinion means less time and less of me going into the things that really last beyond the grave, it feels like I am just collecting dust.
The house can be taken, damaged, burnt, broken into. The cars; in a year they are replaced by a better looking faster model, the holiday becomes pictures no one wants to see. There must be more that is worth investing my life into, this one chance that I have!
This is only part of the picture, you see not only does this reflection help in what I am trying to pursue in life, it helps me focus on the things I don’t want to dominate my life, like letting fear rule my actions. I’m looking for the chance to step out in faith, the chance to go for something bigger than me and take a risk. The chance to give to someone in a way that will really cost me, the chance to forgive, to love, to show mercy, grace and hospitality like I have never done before!
The Bible in Matthew chapter 6 records Jesus speaking saying:
″Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal”
This is a bit of a challenge by Jesus! Is it wrong to work hard and enjoy life with your family and friends? To take some pleasure in the rewards for your work? No, I don’t think that’s true. But the words of Jesus call us to take a good look at where our heart is!
Jesus knows us, better than we can ever imagine, he knows that we can be consumer machines that never reach fulfillment in our material hunger.
I used to go to bed as a child with the Argos catalogue, looking for my next top 5 items. When they were acquired did I throw the book away? No, I found the next top 5.
Where is the balance, sell everything and give to the poor? Well Jesus did say that to some, but why? Well I think this is a heart condition. What is it that drives us? Motivates us, consumes our time, our thoughts our energy? Is it stuff? The next purchase in the Argos book?
I don’t know the outcome you will arrive at, take a walk around the local cemetery and ask yourself some questions.
What will you be known for? Having a 3 bed semi with a nice carpet and double glazing? That bloke who always had the cleanest and newest cars?
Or a person that wasn’t ruled by material stuff, but lived to follow the most radical life-giver the world has ever and will ever see!
To be known as a bloke who lived out a radical kindness, generosity and faith in Jesus Christ, in public and in private.
Are you a person who is not held by fear; fear of failure, fear of inadequacy, fear of ridicule? A person who loves greatly, gives generously, forgives deeply, loves unconditionally? That is worth living for, they are values and characteristics that I want to be known for when someone visits my grave.