1 Corinthians 9:16-27
A little later today I will officiate at the funeral of the father of a co-worker. As a pastor, of course, funerals are something I do fairly often; I must have done well over a hundred in my career. But few of the things I do are as meaningful to me as ministering at the time of death. Why? In large part, I think, because the transition from this life to the next is entirely in God’s hands, and we Christians live and die with the promise of the resurrection always before us.
Paul speaks to the reality of the resurrection in our epistle reading for today. “Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:25). The imperishable wreath that Paul is talking about is the joy to be found in the presence of God once this life is ended and the life eternal has begun. Clearly our objective is more than an imperishable wreath, like so many silk flowers. But this is a helpful image to keep in mind.
Later today as I share the good news of God’s work in Jesus Christ with those who have lost a loved one I will strive to remind them of the hope we all share, the imperishable wreath for which we long. I will try to offer them a glimpse of grace and I will trust God to be at work through me offering comfort. I will rejoice with them as they remember a friend and relative. And I will grieve with them as they accept the loss they have suffered. And we will do all of this to the glory of God who, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has paved the way to eternal life for all who are claimed by God. This is the imperishable wreath for which we strive. This is the grace by which we live and die.
Prayer: Lord, in your mercy be with all who mourn this day offering the comfort and hope that only you can give. In Jesus name. Amen.