During a long wait at a doctor’s office, I decided to write my funeral. No, I don’t have anything serious, but I did have time on my hands and memory of our pastor saying it was a good idea to write down the hymns and scriptures you’d like to have at your funeral. I mean, what if someone decided to slip in a Bill Gaither song at mine; I’d have to rise from the grave and snatch ‘em baldheaded. Give me Isaac Watts any day. And start with “Come, We that Love the Lord.”
It has to be the version with the “marching to Zion” chorus. It’s vigorous and enthusiastic and shows we have a real goal, the same home Abraham looked for, “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11) Watts wrote umpteen verses for his hymns, but Hymns for the Family of God has my favorites on page 550. The first verse tells us to go ahead and tell who we are and Whom we follow. Verse 2 says not to be daunted by those who “refuse to sing.” Refusing the Gospel makes about as much sense as a Londoner on VE Day saying, “Oh, that doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ll just go have tea.” The third verse reminds us that all the world belongs to God anyway, and He’s going to make it perfect one day. The “fairer worlds on high” will come down from heaven as the New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21) If there’s a funeral going on for me, that’s where I am.
I may already be chatting with Mr. Watts about “Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun,” another triumphant song, this one specifically about Jesus the King and the planet He walked on for a while and will walk again with us. (Acts 7:49) We have a taste of His Kingdom now and have the opportunity to “bring … grateful honors to our King” until everyone and everything recognizes Him and keeps on doing it forever. Yeah.
“Fairest Lord Jesus” will cap things off nicely. It’s called the “Crusaders’ Hymn,” though no one knows for sure whether any German knights actually sang it on the way to the Holy Land. I do rather like the image of guys in armor singing this gorgeous love song to Jesus. (We’ll try not to think too much about slaughter and stupidity.) “Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations! Son of God and Son of Man! Glory and honor, praise, adoration, now and forevermore be Thine.” I suppose there may be some tears at my service. This song should make a few of them happy ones.
God had Jeremiah write to Jewish exiles in Babylon (and does life ever feel like that sometimes!) to encourage them: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29: 11-13) Believing that has sustained me through some bad times. Still does. Some things are still bad. But perspective is everything.
The other half of the pair of hiking poles that keeps me upright is Ephesians 1: 7-14. That passage lays out the mysterious basics of salvation, including the idea that made the lights come on in my head, that the only sacrifice good enough to wipe out our sinfulness is the one made by Jesus. One phrase in verse 10 was a life-changer too. It says that God carries out His plans “when the times will have reached their fulfillment,” or “in the fullness of time.” He is never surprised by anything, and nothing He does, or allows, is an accident. Knowing that has kept me from going to pieces over such changes as kids leaving for college, or even deaths of family members.
Everything that happened happened because it was time. When I step into the next world, it will be because it is time. Then, one day, it will be time for the worn-out world to be swept clean and made new. See you there?