I visited my mom this past Friday (9/29). We went out to visit friends and to do what Hunters do so well...shop. When I left, she gave me a collection of "stuff" I had given my father over the past many years for birthdays and Christmases. As you would expect from me, the collection included some "odd" stuff...a singing, animated Bing Crosby, a robot beagle, a couple of stuffed Golden Retrievers...I mean stuffed "toys." Anyway, I am glad to have these of course. They remind me of a lot of great memories with my father, while at the same time reminding me that he is gone and that it will be a while before I see him again.
There is, of course, sadness that he is gone, but intertwined with that is a gratitude for having had him, for the way in which he passed without having to endure years of being an invalid, and for the assurance that I have that he is alive somewhere else celebrating a life free of ICU's, dialysis, and heart procedures.
My mementos are both a reason to be sad, but I thank God that with that sadness, there is much more to be grateful for. The day of my father's funeral, I never would have believed God's ability to mix great sorrow with great gratitude, but that is what I felt as God gave me the privilege of celebrating my father's life publicly by officiating at his funeral. Grief was present, but gratitude was the theme.
Why am I waiting so long to put these observations into words? Well, part of the reason is that as I anticipate participating in the Lord's Supper tomorrow morning at church, I was thinking about something being sorrowful (remembering Christ's suffering and death), and being grateful (remembering that His death accomplished the most amazing thing in my life!). Tomorrow I will remind my flock that you can be sorrowful yet rejoicing, because Christ's sacrifice did and does what no other religious system can do.
It provided the infinitely applicable sacrifice, that enabled God's just nature to deal with our rebellion and imperfection by placing it on Christ, so that Christ's perfect standing before Him could be "accounted" to us given us forgiveness, access to God's own divine Spirit and the truth of His word, adoption into his family, and...well, wonders too many to declare as the psalmist says in Psalm 40:5. Look around and be grateful...even if circumstances are rotten, God isn't, and remember that His most often repeated promise in ALL of Scripture is NOT, trust me and I'll make it easy, but "no matter what...I will be WITH you!" Now that's worth celebrating!