God’s Love has Defeated Death

Death. For much of this year, our family has been awaiting a death. Finally it came. It was July 14th. The doorbell rang and it pained me to answer it, because I knew death was knocking and when I opened the door there would be no turning back. I reluctantly opened the door and the veterinarian came into our house. She knelt on the floor as we sat on the sofa and she gently explained the procedure. There would be a medicine that would put our cat Nikki to sleep and then another medicine that would stop his heart. We had Nikki for 19 years. I remember the day we got him. My daughter, Elizabeth, wanted a cat and we learned of someone that had three kittens. When we arrived, all three kittens scattered and hid, but then one of them came out and stood at Elizabeth’s feet, looked up and started meowing. Nikki chose her just as much as she chose him. For 19 blessed years he’s been a part of the daily routine in our home. The truth is Nikki made our home even more of a home. He brought laughter and love to us all. He was family. But, alas, Nikki got old and started having health problems. Sores started to break out on his body, he had trouble walking and his quality of life was slipping away. It became evident that we were going to have to make this gut wrenching decision that we all prayed we wouldn’t have to make. But, we made the decision and on the afternoon of July 14th our beloved Nikki passed away. I spent several hours digging his grave, which was oddly therapeutic. Then we  placed him in a coffin that Jerry Jenkins lovingly made for us (thank you again Jerry) and we laid Nikki to rest in our back yard. Our family gathered in a huddle and we prayed, hugged and cried. I haven’t cried that much in years. Death hurts. Death stings. But death can also bring clarity. In those sacred moments as our family huddled together in grief, I was overcome with gratitude for family and a realization that not much else matters on this earth other than love. I walked away from Nikki’s grave with an immense amount of love for my family and that love would help us in our grief. If there is a common denominator to a life of blessings, it must be love.

Fast forward to early September when I walked away from another grave. I officiated the funeral of one of the “Saints of Bethel,” Zeke Bookman. It was a scorching hot morning in early September. Only his immediate family were present for the interment at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Zeke was a career military man, a patriot and thus a military honor guard was present. There was a 15 gun salute. Taps was played. I read Scripture and offered his family some words of hope and comfort. As I walked away from Zeke’s grave, I thought about how wonderful he was and how after 97 years of life, his body would now reside in the ground in an old Richmond cemetery for the rest of eternity. Then I thought of something I heard recently that I’m still thinking about. Someone told me, “After we die, we’ll be forgotten within three generations.” When I first heard this I thought, “How depressing!” But, then I thought, “Maybe he’s right?” Death hurts. Death stings.

Walking away from a grave can naturally lead to questions about the brevity of life and the importance of our lives. If we’ll be forgotten within three generations, does it matter how we live? Or what people think of us? Keep thinking along those lines for very long and one might conclude, “Why bother! Let’s just eat, drink and be merry.” Blessedly, my mind did not travel too far down that road because I had another realization. I realized the Disciples probably had similar questions. After Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb for all eternity, I imagine the Disciples had questions like, “I thought he was the one? Now he’s dead!” “He could heal people, but couldn’t heal himself?” “If God worked so powerfully through him while he was alive, where is God now?” “I’ve given three years of my life following him and for what? What now? Why bother!” There must have been a thousand questions like these swirling through the minds of those distraught Disciples after the crucifixion. They were smacked in the face with the harsh reality that mankind has always known from the beginning of time: Death hurts. Death Stings. But…this time death wasn’t the final word. You know the story. All of those questions would disappear like mist when they encountered the risen Jesus that first Easter morning. I cannot begin to fathom what it must have been like to encounter the risen Jesus; can you? To touch the resurrected One must have been like touching a dream too good to be true, only it was true. The truth of the resurrection has reframed death and given our Calendar Brunswick Stew Bethel Care Team Puppet Trip pg. 7 pg. 6 pg. 6 pg. 6 Continued next column Continued next page 2 Happy Halloween! Have fun and stay safe. Here are a few safety tips: 1. Carry a flashlight or glow sticks 2. Ensure masks do not obscure vision 3. Add reflective tape to costumes for better visibility 4. Avoid costumes that are too long as they might cause tripping 5. Have a responsible adult walk with children 6. Only visit familiar areas and neighborhoods 7. Never enter a stranger’s home or car 8. Cross streets only at corners, stay on sidewalks 9. Never eat unwrapped candy or food 10. Bring all candy home to be inspected by an adult 11. Notify law enforcement authorities of any suspicious or unlawful activity Below is the Flu vaccine locations link: https://www.vaccines.gov/find-vaccines/ Please remember the three flu precautions: Mask Up: Cover your nose and mouth with a mask when out in public. Lather Up: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Sleeve Up: Roll up your sleeve to get a flu shot. “It is not the trials in your life that develop or destroy you, but rather your response to those hardships.” – Charles Stanley Blessings, Cindy Luck RN FCN October 4 — Sacred Circle — 6 p.m. October 11 — Sacred Circle — 6 p.m. October 18 — Sacred Circle — 6 p.m. October 25 — Sacred Circle — 6 p.m. What’s on your fall reading list? Come by the library and check out our newest books. All Things Possible by Kurt Warner – NFL sensation Kurt Warner tells the incredible story of faith and perseverance that captured the hearts of millions and rocketed him from obscurity to becoming MVP and Super Bowl champion in 2000. All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore – Her memoir is an incredibly thoughtful, funny and vulnerable glimpse into the life and ministry of a woman familiar to many but known to few. lives purpose, meaning and hope. If we stop to think about it, Jesus left us some clues that death would not have the final word. In Mark 5, Jesus was called to the home of Jairus whose daughter died. Jesus raises her and the text says, “They were completely amazed!” I guess they were! In Luke 7 Jesus visits a town called Nain and raises the son of a widow. The text said, “They glorified God!” I guess they did! Then we all know the famous story of Lazarus, already in a tomb, dead for four days. Jesus raises him. Here’s a little nugget of truth: Jesus crashes funerals in the most spectacular of ways! When you attended a funeral with Jesus, no one walked away from the grave grieving! When you attended a funeral with Jesus, tombs were left empty, grave clothes were scattered on the ground, and people celebrated! Wakes turned into awakenings! That celebration reached a crescendo on Easter morning. That’s why Paul could write in 1 Corinthians 15, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have victory in Christ because “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) that he sent Christ to us as the highest and most perfect expression of God’s love. God’s love has defeated death. God’s love allows us to grieve with hope. God’s love says that we won’t be forgotten in three generations, as we will be alive for all eternity. The question is, can we remember these truths the next time we have to walk away from a grave? Can we remember these truths the next time we’re going through a difficult time? May the Lord help us to remember the truth that the very same power that God used to raise Christ is at work in us now. I close by offering the prayer Paul prayed in Ephesians 1, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” May we go forth in faith, in God’s power and in His redeeming love. May God bless you and may God bless Bethel Baptist Church.