I have been a pastor for over twenty-four years now. Over that time, I have officiated at hundreds of funerals and weddings. In fact, when I was serving up in Maine, I sometimes did fifty funerals a year. A pastor never forgets his first funeral. I was petrified. All those people thought I would know just the right things to say. I felt responsible for a family’s grief. I mean, I was the one who was supposed to help them find closure, right? Often times, as it was in this case, I did not even know the person. You see, I began as a Youth Pastor. The Senior Pastor did all the funerals for members of our congregation. I was frequently called by the local funeral homes to help out when someone came in who did not have a church or pastor. I was called off the bench to “pinch hit” if you will. If you did a good job, you acquired a reputation among the local funeral directors as someone to call.
I guess I did a good job, because not more than a week later, Brookings-Smith Funeral Home called me again. I remember this one more than my first actually. Why? Because I was still so nervous, I accidentally called the deceased person by the name of my first funeral. Twice! I was mortified! The owner, Gary Smith, tried to be helpful. He said, “That’s okay, Adam, no one is really paying attention to you anyhow.” I still laugh at that. I am chuckling now as I type it.
This all came to mind this week, because for some reason, I again find myself getting calls from local funeral homes to officiate funerals for people I do not know. I try to accommodate as best I can. I have actually gotten pretty good at it. I mean, I do not do a lot of things well, but I do a good funeral. So, when you die, I’m your guy.
These recent services were a challenge, however, because I soon discovered the deceased was not a believer. It is easier to speak about heaven and salvation when you know they believed in Jesus. What do you say about someone whose eternity is uncertain? I have struggled with these services. Now, I do not know the condition of a person’s heart when it comes to a relationship with Jesus. No one does. However, I cannot lie either and just say everyone goes to heaven regardless, etc. That is not true. Jesus says in Matthew 7, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). Who enters? Jesus was clear about that too. He said, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). As well as, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). So, what do you say about someone who does not believe? Or, you are unaware if they did? Can you see my dilemma?
This is why it is so important to make a decision about Christ. Once we draw our final breath, it is too late, and it is truly heartbreaking, even for the pastor officiating the service, to not know where this person, who was clearly loved, will spend eternity.
Please think about who Jesus is and what He did on the cross. Pray about it. Tell your family and friends about the gateway to life. I know there are people in your life who you love deeply and want them to be one of the “few” who find it, right?
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