Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

© John Denney 10 February 1999

 

When I’m on holiday, one of the things I like to do is look around old churches.  I like finding curious epitaphs on gravestones.  Up in the north of England I saw one which read:

Remember, friend, when passing by

As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, soon you will be

Prepare for death and follow me.

Underneath this worthy Victorian verse someone had scratched another two lines:

To follow you I’m not content

Until I know which way you went

 

Someone once said that the riskiest activity of all is living – because it has a 100% fatality rate.  And we all know the old cliché that there are only two certain things in life: death and taxes.

 

If your family is like mine, we’re so scattered around the country – indeed the world –  the only time we ever get together is at a family funeral.  At the funeral of King Hussein of Jordan this week, the world family gathered.  They say there’s never been such a meeting of the truly powerful people of all the major countries of the world.  There were princes and presidents and prime ministers, gathered together to pay their respects to someone who had become one of the great peacemakers of modern times.  And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God”. The world’s sense of loss brought representatives of nations which had recently been at war, and even some who were engaged in military stand-offs at that very moment.  It was a quite remarkable assembly of the great, the good, and the not-so-great-or-good..

 

By contrast, the great novelist and philosopher Dame Iris Murdoch, who died this week, left instructions that there was to be no ceremony, no service, no memorial to mark her passing.  She wishes to go without formality.

 

I wonder whether she was right.  Because funerals are not for the benefit of the dead, but to help those who are left behind come to terms with their loss.  A good funeral reinforces the happy memories we have, and we celebrate the life that has just come to an end.  And Jesus said Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

 

Christians have a sure belief that when they die, they will rise to heaven.  None of that Hoddle reincarnation business for us.  When a Christian dies, we know which way he’s going.  Now, do you know which way you’re going?

 

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