THE BIBLE SPEAKS

What comes after 'taps'?


 

 


Background Scripture:
Luke 23:32-46.
Devotional Reading:
1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

In the last 45 days we have been to four memorial services. In looking back over these four services, I believe that each of them was a service of thanksgiving, hope, and triumph. To be sure, none of the departed were the victims of sudden death or tragic accidents and the lives which we celebrated were full of self-giving Christian witness. But what made these services so uplifting was the presence of joy in the midst of sorrow.

It was my privilege to conduct the service for the mother of our next-door neighbors and dear friends. In her last weeks, I visited her in a nearby care facility. Though she seldom spoke, her manner and demeanor spoke for her. So it was not difficult for me to understand the testimonies for her that were marked by both tears and joy.

Some would rather argue about life after death than prayerfully prepare for it – “Will we immediately be with Jesus in Paradise or will we begin the ‘long sleep’ until Christ returns?” “Will there be a physical or spiritual body?” But Jesus did not encourage speculation. Instead, he asked them to follow him and trust the Father for the life beyond. FIRST, FORGIVE

Jesus left an example that we should strive to emulate. First, he gave up all revenge and rancor: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). If anyone would have been justified facing death with a curse instead of a blessing, it was Jesus. The victim of a murderous plot, judged unjustly with perjured testimony, deserted by his closest followers, and given a harsh sentence from which there was no appeal, he nevertheless asked God to forgive his tormentors. Why? Because they did not really understand what they were doing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to arrive in the presence of the Lord harboring a curse of vengeance.

The second example occurs when the penitent thief asks, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.” The reply of Jesus is meant, not only for the thief, but all of us: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43). Jesus is saying that it is never too late to repent and follow him. He does not tell the thief that he must first be baptized, learn a catechism, initial a scroll of doctrines, join the right denomination, or adopt a particular style of worship.

However, that is a problem for some of us, isn’t it? Like the brother of the Prodigal Son, we may resent someone included at the last minute. Like the workers in the vineyard, we may protest that working the full day entitles us to more than those who come late. We all need to remember that grace is about NOT getting what we have coming to us! BEFORE AND AFTER

So, why shouldn’t we all wait until our deathbed to join with Jesus? The answer is actually simpler and more striking than most realize: the person who joins Jesus at the last moment is saved for a life after death, but those of us who sign-on early are also saved for life before death. God can give us resurrected life both before and after death. As Charlotte Perkins Gilman puts it: “Eternity is not something that begins after you are dead. It is going on all the time. You are in it now.”

Theologian Hans Kueng says that we cannot prove life after death, but neither can we disprove it. In either case, what you expect is a matter of faith. For the Christian it is a blind leap into the everlasting arms. For atheists it is THE END. It is our choice.

A significant part of any military funeral is the soft, mournful playing of “Taps.” But for the Christian, “Taps” should not be the last sound of the trumpet. Following Jesus calls for “Reveille”!