Saturday, February 5, 2011

Joy in the House of Mourning

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. (Ec 7:2)

As excited as I was about the possibilities for the halftime show at tomorrow's Super Bowl, there's no way it could ever match the funeral I went to today for sheer joy.

Kim Ohanian's earthly life ended a few days ago, and hundreds of people came to our church today, not to "pay their respects" or "say goodbye," but to celebrate a life given to Jesus and transformed into triumph. Kim had given her time to our church's preschool program, and former students and their parents attended, as did many members of the church she had been active in before coming to ours and probably many whose connections with Kim I have no idea of. In the almost ten years we have been at our church, I have never seen so many people in the building at one time.

The result was an hour and a half of music, testimony, and preaching that surely brought smiles to the entire heavenly host. As my wife put it, no one could have left that service without understanding what life in Christ was all about. Even my cooling heart warmed a bit.

Her husband John gave an eloquent remembrance of the priority she had placed on the Christian mission, whether as an English teacher in Korea, as a mother and stepmother to his children, or as a member of our church's missions committee. His son and daughter spoke well of her taking over as their mother figure. My daughter and a good friend sang a duet about heaven—appropriately enough stating that we have no idea what to expect—that drew the first applause I have ever heard of occurring at a funeral.

But what brought out the tissues, at least where I was, watching the video feed to the overflow crowd in the gym, was Kim's teenage daughter Joy describing her Mama. As she listed what she remembered her mother doing for her, I asked how well I had done each with my own children. Did I encourage and model daily time in Scripture and prayer? Did I spend countless hours talking about their spiritual condition? Was the mission of the church my first priority? Is it now?

If I had needed a list of worthwhile things to do with one's time, that was it.

Apart from two of the dozens of slides in the slideshow on the screen in the gym during the after-service luncheon, there was no indication of what government Kim was subject to. I don't know if she listened to Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or read Murray Rothbard or voted Democrat. But if I hadn't known from working with her on the missions committee that she loved Jesus and wanted people—family, friends, and strangers alike—to know him, I would have had it massaged into me today.

I needed to hear it all. I have been wondering for some time whether the Bible is, for better or worse, a work of fiction. And as any three random posts on this blog will evidence, I look at the way the Christian church—and I mean sincere people who read the Bible and pray and can be generous and otherwise good neighbors—has fallen into the idolatry of nationalism and wonder "whether there be any Holy Ghost."

But today God blew on the coals by showing me someone who took what he gave her and used it for his glory alone, and I could look around at hundreds of people and see the effect she had had on their lives.

More than I did yesterday I want to do the same.

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