I was once asked by an Elder’s wife to preside at the funeral service for her sister. She was a local resident with many friends and a very large family. But I was not prepared for the crowd that filled the cemetery chapel on that bright Spring day in Cincinnati. There were well over 200 people assembled for that service.
As I arose to speak I immediately noticed two unusual things: first, the crowd was more attentive than any I could ever remember addressing. Funeral services normally present wonderful opportunities for communicating truths about life and about God. Many people who have never intentionally listened to spiritual things before can be forced by the circumstances to experience a momentary opening of the heart. But this crowd was more than open. They were as alert as a company of soldiers being addressed by their commander before going into battle. It was a solemn attentiveness. A second thing I noticed was the unusual freedom of my mind. It was more relaxed and alert than at any time I could remember. In other words, I was given control of the moment and I knew it. I began by referring to common questions that arise in people’s minds at times like these: “”Why am I here on earth?” “Is there any purpose for my existence?” and “Where am I going after I die?” I understood my opportunity and took advantage of it by lovingly pressing upon them the importance of a relationship with God before our time here also runs out. As the service concluded and I awaited the dismissal of the people by the attendant, It seemed that everyone was still in some sort of trance. Of course, I knew what had happened. We had all experienced a genuine visitation of God. But just why, what He was trying to accomplish, and with whom, was not for me or anyone else to know.
I have often reflected upon that experience and the way God put those words in my mouth. Regardless of the many distractions of life, people are still struggling with the deeper issues reflected by those questions. It is that same set of questions that linger in peoples’ minds today. Try as it might, this materialistic culture of ours cannot totally eclipse the real meaning of life. We need to understand this fact. And we need to understand that God presents us all with opportunities like the one I had experienced. Families, friends, co-workers may try their best to run away from God but the loving Father brings them all, sooner or later, to that moment of clarity where they can be reached with the gospel. The big question is: will there be anyone available and prepared to share it with them,. Therefore, always be alert to the opportunities God will give you to address those questions that just will not go away.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship