10 Things to Do Before You Die ~ Feast of All Saints, Nov. 5, 2017
Today we are celebrating the Feast of All Saints. All Saints, and its companion feast day, All Souls, which are actually on Nov. 1st and 2nd respectively, are days that we remember the souls of all the saints who have gone before, both the famous ones, The “Big S” saints, like the apostles whose banners grace our space, and those “little s” saints who are just famous to us, like loved ones whose pictures some of you have brought to place on the altar.
As Christians, we understand there is a continuum to the life God has given us. It starts when we are born, and it extends beyond the day of our death into eternity. When we come together to worship, We believe that we join with those who have gone before in the worship that is ongoing in heaven, like the description we heard about in our Revelation reading today:
“A great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne… they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor
and power and might
be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
When we gather around the altar a little later in the service, we will say “And so this day we join with Saints and Angels in the chorus of praise that rings through eternity, lifting our voices to magnify you as we sing: Holy Holy Holy…”
So not only are the pictures of our loved ones around the altar, we can trust that in some mystical way we are all connected, especially as we worship.
Remembering our loved ones who have died as we celebrate All Saints can bring us to a sobering thought: One day, each of us will die. One day, everyone we know and love will die.
Some of you have recently lost loved ones, and are actively grieving. Others of you are fearful about if or when a loved one’s critical illness will lead to death sooner than you or they would want. We can rest in the hope of being reunited with our loved ones in heaven, where God will wipe away every tear. But it still makes it hard for those who mourn today. But the truth remains that someday, we all will die.
We in our society often shy away from talking about death, but on this All Saints, I want us to embrace the topic for a bit. In the time we have left, let’s look at “Ten Things You Should To Do Before You Die.”
Now, normally I don’t have a habit of giving 10 point sermons… especially when we have not too much more than 10 minutes left in the sermon time, but don’t worry…. I won’t make us late for the pie auction!
Number 1: Memorize this statistic – the Death rate, as of today, is hovering right at 100%. The stock market may be up, Joblessness may be down, but 100% of us will die. We don’t know how much longer we have, whether it will be 1 day or 90 years. We can and should do our best to steward the body the Lord has given us, but even you tofu-eating, exercise nuts won’t be here 100 years from now. (well, with medical advances, you might, little one… ). So, we might as well get our heads around the fact that we each will die, and stop pretending that it won’t happen to us. It will or to those we love.
Number 2: Given that we all die, it makes a whole lot of sense to get yourself right with God, TODAY. Why wait? In the 1 John reading we heard it says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. … Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.”
This mortal life is only one part of our eternal life. God loves you so much. Jesus lived, died, and rose again to show us that death and evil and sin are not the last word. When you accept Jesus’ invitation to receive forgiveness and reconciliation and begin to follow Jesus as your leader, then eternal life with God has already begun for you.
St. Augustine wrote, “my heart is restless until it rests in you, oh God.” We are all created with a God-shaped hole in our lives. The gods of self-determination, and greed and power will never fill the place that is intended for the One, True, Holy God to have in our lives. Those false gods will never bring us lasting joy. So, Take your Sabbath time to reflect on whose throne you are bowing down to and worshipping most often. Is it the Lord’s? or someone or something else? It’s time to align or realign yourself with God.
So, 1) Accept your mortality and 2) Reconcile yourself to God. Now, hopefully, you’re in a place where you can do #3.
Number 3: Get your affairs in order.
What I mean by this, if you haven’t done so, do all those things that so many of us put off.
Write a will or set up a Living Trust.
Let your loved ones know of your final wishes.
Let your driver’s license reflect your decisions about organ donation.
Decide on Advance Medical directives, which means you’ll want to decide how you feel about such things as life support, and the difference between measures that enhance life verses those that merely forestall death.
One of the privileges I have as a pastor is to be with people when they are near death, or when they are experiencing the death of a loved one. It is a sacred time. But it’s also a very emotional time. It makes it so much easier on the family when your affairs are in order, and your family knows how you feel about end of life issues.
Number 4: Have fun planning your own funeral.
It sounds kind of morbid at first, but actually, it’s actually quite liberating. This is the last big party you get to plan. It really can be fun… especially if you do it before you think you need to, but it can be fun even if you facing death on the doorstep.
In the church, a burial service is an Easter celebration. It’s a celebration of the resurrection and new life. At the same time, it recognizes the grief of those who are still this side of heaven.
So, start a file. When you come across a piece of Scripture or song that you’d like to have at your funeral, put it in the file. Give a copy of your wishes to the church. We have resources and forms that can help you. It’s such a gift to your family when you have this taken care of.
So Don’t be afraid to finish the sentence, “When I die, ____.”
When I die, I want a bagpiper to play Amazing Grace over my grave.
When I die, cremate my remains and scatter the ashes in the mountains.
When I die, give little Joey my baseball card collection.
When I die, give half my estate to the church.
You don’t need to be afraid of death, because death is not the last word for Christians.
What’s more, Numbers 3, Getting your affairs in order, and No. 4, Planning your own funeral, are things you can help others in your life do too. Open your conversation with, “Our priest told us we should do this for ourselves… what about you, mom?” Sometimes, we just don’t know how to bring the subject up, but just do it.
Now that we’ve dealt with the end of life stuff, let’s deal with the “right-now” life stuff.
Number 5: Reconcile your relationships
Forgive those that have hurt you.
Ask to be forgiven where you have hurt others.
Asks God’s forgiveness when you go off the path. Don’t let a wall build up.
Seek to build bridges.
Do you regret where you are in any of your relationships?
Do you hold hatred or anger toward anyone? Let it go.
Forgiveness is not an option for Christians.
If you knew you only had a few days on earth, who would you want to call to set things right?
Why wait. Give that person a call. Today. You know you need to. So do it.
Number 6: Live as a saint today
We remember the “Big S” saints for their examples of faithfulness in what they did for God. We remember our own “little s” saints for how they showed God to us. How do you want to be remembered? The hymn we sang, “I sing a song of the saints of God,” reminds us that we can be everyday saints when we live faithfully into our callings. What do you want people to say at your funeral, besides, “he lived a good long life and died in his sleep.”? If your life is not exhibiting the aspects of your own saintliness that you’d like it to, then get started.
That brings us to Numbers 7, 8, 9: Those things are up to you and God. You see, life with God is about a whole lot more than just getting into heaven when you die. Heaven is the icing on the cake. But God created you and me to help him build his kingdom now. Whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” We pray to help make this world down here look like God’s world up there.
More than just living a good life, you and I have a job to do.
You are called to be you, the you God created you to be. God has given you gifts, and talents and experiences and passions, unique to you, that God wants you to use in building his kingdom. Some of the upside-down aspects of that kingdom Jesus talks about in the beatitudes we heard today. Blessed are those who seek righteousness. Blessed are the meek and those who mourn where the world is not going according to God’s plan. Blessed are the peacemakers.
Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly.
So, ask yourself, what great thing would I do for God if there were no barriers?
Ask yourself, what impact to I want to have in furthering God’s kingdom before I die?
Hopefully, it’s more than three things. But let Numbers 7, 8, & 9 represent you living the abundant life God has given you with joy, helping God’s Kingdom come.
Number 10: Finally, the biggest To Do on our list – Love exceedingly and live fully. None of us know how long we have, so make the most of our lives.
I recently heard a song by country singer Tim McGraw, called “Live like you were Dying.” Apparently, it’s been out for a while, but I just heard it. It’s about a man in his 40s who isn’t given much time to live. When asked by his friend what he did with that news he replies,
“‘I was finally the husband
That most of the time I wasn’t
And I became a friend a friend would like to have
And all of a sudden going fishin’
Wasn’t such an imposition
And I went three times that year I lost my dad
I finally read the Good Book, and I
Took a good, long, hard look
At what I’d do if I could do it all again
I went skydiving
I went Rocky Mountain climbing
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu
And I loved deeper
And I spoke sweeter
And I gave forgiveness I’d been denying”
And he said
‘Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying.'”
We all have the chance to live like we are dying, because, in fact we are. And now, you’ve got a 10 point list!
As we remember the saints who have gone before, let’s live into being the saints God wants us to be before we die. Amen.