Archives for posts with tag: death

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UPDATE: Since the time of this writing there have been some new developments in the Brittany Maynard story.

 

This is one of those weeks when I can’t just talk about what I am supposed to be talking about. Day after tomorrow a young lady, not even yet 30, has determined she will die by euthanasia because she can’t bear the thought of a painful death from the devastating form of brain cancer which is slowly killing her. My heart is heavy for Brittany Maynard. I couldn’t help but post on the page created by an anonymous Facebook user. The page is called “We Love Brittany Maynard.”

This is what I wrote: “Dear Brittany. I will never meet you here, but a part of you has touched my heart deeply. You have thoroughly considered and ordered your steps in this journey that is yours only, but I want you to know that in deciding to go alone you have touched off a storm. There are hundreds of thousands of hearts beating with your heart right now even if you can’t feel it. And my prayer and hope is that you will decide to let that heart beat a little longer or a lot. You are in my prayers today. November 1, for those of us who come from a certain part of the world, marks the ‘Day of the Dead.’ Could it possibly become the ‘Day of the Living’ for you? We need you to hang on a little longer, even if we are being selfish, because your beauty has touched all of us. ‘We love because He loved us first.’”

Across this great nation and the world there are countless people praying for Brittany. Not everyone is blasting her out of the park at the hour of her greatest need. To attempt to score a theological point at a time someone is most vulnerable would be cruelty of the worst kind. I will let God settle that and will refuse to be anything but charitable toward someone who has looked at darkness and decided it is too thick for her. But oh how I pray that she will change her mind!

I may sound a little melancholic here but this is because this has been a week filled with the ups and downs of emotions for me and not all of them involve total strangers I will never meet. In Brazil, my youngest brother was robbed at gun point. They took his car and his wallet. The car was recovered the next day and the rest of the stuff will eventually be replaced, but how does one heal from the shock of being violated for the simple reason of having stuff that one has worked so hard to get?

My extended family is gathering in Brazil to celebrate the matrimony of one of my nephews. Sadly, none of my immediate family is able to attend. In talking to my mom on the phone a couple of days ago, I heard of her own experience dealing with pain from arthritis, but even more unsettling to me, the sadness over the knowledge of my dad’s impeding journey into eternity. She finds herself crying more frequently, considering what her life will be like after his passing. Having lived with him for more than 60 years now, you can’t blame her for considering the meaning of the absence of the giant figure in her life. My father will be 88 on November 13 and my mom is 10 years younger. She got married when she was only 16.

Though I too am forced to consider my father’s death, I tease myself that the man will never die. Every Sunday he is still faithfully preaching at the new church plant he volunteered to head up after he stepped down as senior pastor of the church where he served for over 55 years. And my mom keeps telling me that his constant companion, the Bible, still lies open on his chest when he falls asleep. Lately, my father has told the family in no uncertain terms: “I have lived long enough to do whatever I want, so don’t try to tell me what to do.” And don’t dare ask him chapter and verse for that. He just might come up with something.

Between Brittany Maynard, my brother, my nephew, my parents and the daily burdens of decision-making at work, I feel somewhat closer to the destitute widow about whom I’ll be speaking this Sunday (Mark 12:41-44). She had her own litany of troubles and probably would have gladly welcomed death for that might have been easier than the struggle to survive day-to-day. This woman had nothing going for her, except she managed to get the attention of the Master as He watched people come to the temple and bring their offerings.

Sometimes, in the midst of the greatest perplexities of life, death being just the most obvious one, many people desire nothing more than to know that perhaps they are not in this alone. Brittany Maynard perhaps knows this now. My nephew who is getting married, when he caught my mother crying recently, told her, “Grandma, you will have to get used to the idea that one day grandpa will no longer be around. But one thing for sure: you will not be alone.” My brother who was robbed immediately felt the helping hands of other family members and friends who came to his rescue.

But when everyone else fails to notice, it is comforting to me to know that Jesus had an eye of compassion for one nameless widow who was forgotten by the world and whose sight was blurred by the noise and flamboyance of the pompous religious leaders who thought they were the only show in town. Isn’t it interesting? Jesus’ eyes always seem to turn to where the most vulnerable ones sit. He is now looking at people like Brittany and I just hope that she will look back at Him. And He is looking at you too and saying: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

 

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Sermon Graphic iWallet Long-2America’s obsession with making money is embedded in the very language we speak. In social settings (not social media, real social gathering) people who meet for the first time even in casual conversations with total strangers are not afraid to ask, “What do you do for a living?”

Talk about a question that cannot be answered with just a couple of words like, “I am a school teacher.” “Living,” after all, is a lot more than “doing” something. Living is sitting mindlessly in the woods listening to wildlife pass. Living is listening to people. Living is making sure you take your blood pressure medicine. Living is drying your kid’s tears after a tough loss in a soccer game. Living is arguing with your spouse about where to go to dinner. Living is reading your favorite blog. Living is obviously unquantifiable and “un-dollar-signed.”

By using “making a living” to mean only “make money,” we have cheated these words from their full and potentially rich meaning. And the reason I say that, first of all, is that I don’t really “make a living” – the living makes me. I am defined by the wealth of my relationships and not by the wealth that I leave behind. Obviously, this is not the same as saying we shouldn’t aspire to do better in life, but this is a subject for another day. The Bible is clear that one must work hard to provide for his family.

The other reason for this assault on the meaning of these words is that if we the want to be defined by what we “do” or “make,” which essentially means that we are creative beings (not in the sense of creativity only but in the general sense of productivity), then why restrict such a variegated sort of activity to the one area of our lives in which we have little or no control? My money is here today, gone tomorrow. Wealth generation and management assume that others will have a huge say on my “worth;” and if not others, circumstances will.

The story of the rich fool told by Jesus in Luke 12 illustrates this last point. The main character in the story had a huge problem. Most people think that the problem was that his fields produced too many crops and he was not prepared to store it all. Wrong. That was only part of the problem. In fact, if that were the sole reason for his troubles, it would be an easy fix. Consider:

He could have harvested the crops and quickly sold it to other producers who collectively would have room to store all the grain.

He could have donated a significant portion of his harvest to his workers who would in turn become more productive since they wouldn’t have to be overly preoccupied with the business of survival.

He could have sold the excess to the provincial government to ensure that people would have enough to eat in the winter time.

Finally, he could have simply made an outright donation of a good portion of his surplus to the poor, orphans, widows and aliens living in his town.

But no. This man’s problem was that he wanted all the toys for himself. So putting himself first, he decided to tear down his existing barns and build bigger ones to hoard all his surplus for future malefic use. This guy would probably be a great candidate for a typical Wall Street investor today.

By doing this he would accomplish two things: a) he could ration the availability of the product and thus drive prices up at will. (The man was not stupid. He knew that in a time of shortage food is king); b) when his barns were built and full, they would become his insurance. This was, essentially, his 401K.

Remember Emperor Kuzco from the Emperor’s New Groove? All he cared about was that he had a great time – forget the misery of others. So if somebody asked this fool what he did for a living, he might as well have said, “I am the guy who decides if you live or die next winter.”

But at least in this story, the Great Equalizer shows up in time to save the day. While the man is busy self-congratulating: “Self. You’ve got it made. You’ve shielded yourself from financial trouble for years to come. Get that bucket list out and let’s have myself some fun!” Barely were the words out of his mouth when he heard a voice, “Shut up, you fool. You’ll drop dead tonight. How about them wills?”

And not surprisingly, Jesus concludes with a stern warning that applies to all of us. Here is Ivanildo’s Unauthorized Version: “Obsession with ‘making a living’ will cause you to leave the Maker behind. Turn around and change or you might be the next fool to drop.”

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’ Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 16:20-21 NLT).

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Prelude

For those of you who are familiar with my schedule the last two or three weeks, you know how “insane” it has been. But it is not just the schedule, it is the range of emotions I have been experiencing. I just returned from participating in Paul Keller’s memorial service. Paul was a faithful member of our church for many years and we will dearly miss him. I am posting the sermon I preached today in church down below. This week I also learned about the passing of a dear friend in Ohio who succumbed to her battle with cancer. And last week my wife and I attended the memorial service for Bill Burk, the man God used to introduce my dad to the Lord many years ago. Needless to say, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and I feel exhausted.

Needless to say, I have not been able to post with regularity here. I have wanted to but time didn’t allow. It was ironic that just as to preach about the value of work last week I may have given the impression that I was not working enough by not posting a little preview of the sermon last week. My apologies to all of you who have grown accustomed to reading something here prior to Sunday. It was simply not possible for me to do it.

And here I am again: It is pass 11:00 on Saturday night and I have not posted about tomorrow’s message. It doesn’t matter now, I guess, you won’t read it before Sunday anyway. But I will tell you regardless: I will be covering all the verses in Proverbs dealing with the concept of “friendship.” Yes, you heard me right: all the verses. It will be a rolling sermon with an emotional closing. Guaranteed.

Okay, I hope to resume my “regular” schedule here next week. I count on your prayers for that. But I am also getting ready to go to National Conference in Atlanta soon and am trying to get all the gears in place for the exciting series I will starting on the new vision God has given us for Grace Church. That will start the first week of September, right after I get back from a short-term mission trip to SE Asia. Yes, did I tell you that I am going to Cambodia and Thailand in the middle of August? Can’t wait to see my precious children we have rescued for God there. Stay tuned. There will be some posts from Asia soon.

Here is the message I preached tonight:

A Tribute to Paul Keller

 

There is a story in Greek mythology about an ugly and evil monster called the Sphinx. With the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, a serpent-headed tail, and the head of a woman, this monster was positioned at the entrance to the ancient city of Thebes and would pose a riddle to each traveler asking passage. “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed, and the more legs it has the weaker it is?” She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus, the Greek hero, finally solved the riddle by answering: “Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age.”

We too, who are made with an expiration date, are also taunted by a monster threatening to devour us if we don’t solve a riddle. That riddle is death, and the death angel, the mother of all Sphinxes, keeps making house calls as it tells us to return to dust.

Sadly, that day arrived unexpectedly to our beloved friend and brother in Christ, Paul Keller, this week. I met Paul shortly after I moved to Lititz about seven months ago. Since that day I had several opportunities to speak with him here at the church, usually between services. He mentioned to me about his concerns about his upcoming surgery. Though I spoke with him only briefly each time, I can honestly tell you that every time he saw me he always assured me that he was praying for me and one time he even said, “Look I know that you must be dealing with a lot here but just know that there is plenty of people here who are with you and like what you are doing.” That was just like him, wasn’t it? Always positive and encouraging.

Just so you don’t think I am making this stuff up, as I went through Paul’s Bible, I found this flyer here whose title says “20 Scripture-Based Prayers to Pray for Your Pastor.” Wow. It is so humbling for me to think that this man truly prayed for us, pastors, here at Grace Church, and I wish many more will step in to fill that role in light of his passing. Oh yes, and I also saw several outlines of my messages in Paul’s Bible, with all the blanks filled out, every single one of them. I guess Paul liked to get his money’s worth…

As I spoke with Brenda, Charlene and her husband, Jeff, it became obvious to me that we can summarize Paul’s life by saying that he was a lover of God and a lover of people. He has left a great legacy here in the church and in the lives of so many people he loved.

As I thought of this, I remembered a recently encounter I had with a young man from Nicaragua who had been in Lititz only three days. I met him in front of the music store here in Lititz. He was a rock musician, a bass player. He was carrying a bass guitar in a case that had these words in big bold letters: “Live so the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.”

Well, Paul has made it easy for me not to have to lie here today. So truth check: Paul loved God and people.

His love for God is evident by the way he brought up his children in the admonition of the Lord. Paul also served God faithfully here at Grace Church, and especially after he became a leader of his Sunday School class, his faith seemed to grow exponentially. Paul’s Bible is marked all throughout and the Book of Psalms was the one he marked the most. And of all the chapters, he seems to be particularly fond of Psalm 119, which is a long poem about God’s eternal Word. Verses such as these figure prominently I his Bible. 18: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law…” “Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end,” (33); “I will always obey your law, forever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (44-45).

Later in life Paul also enjoyed reading Jim Cymballa and David Jeremiah. He also became more purposeful in prayer and would more easily express his feelings, including crying from time to time, contrary to how they remembered him growing up – a man who liked to keep his feelings to himself, which I have found is a trait of this Lancaster County area. But I guarantee you, the more time Paul spent in God’s Word, the more his heart broke for the things that break God’s heart. That is the explanation to his tender-heartiness later in life. That is also the cure to the prisons of our cultures and Paul seemed to have found it in his later years.

Paul was also a great lover of people. First and foremost, his love for his wife, Jean, who went to glory only about a year ago, was something very special. Even after her passing, Paul loved to constantly talk about her. He met her in California and when he had the opportunity in 1981 to buy the family farm back in Lancaster County, he very much wanted to do it but would only do it if his wife was 100% with him. His wife was the baby of the family and very close to her relatives out west, so Paul showed his sensitivity to her by listening to her. In the end, they moved east and it was the best thing that happened, according to his daughters, because it allowed them to grow up in a rich atmosphere, surrounded with cousins, uncles, and many other relatives.

Jeff recalled how sad it was to see Paul come to their house after the passing of his wife, because wherever he was, she was always there with her all his life. Well, Paul is now again reunited with his beloved wife.

Paul also loved his daughters. Brenda recalled how he simply didn’t have the stomach to spank them. The discipline was usually fell to mom. The one and only time he spanked Brenda, she was shocked when it was over so soon and almost painlessly. She remembers thinking, “Is that it?” And then quickly she had to fake a little bit because she said she definitely didn’t want to go through that again.

Paul was very supportive and patient with everything his daughters ever endeavored to do. Charlene remembered how as a 15 year old she had joined the track team and her dad was always on the stands, cheering her on. On the only occasion when he was a little critical of her, at the end of a meet, she remembers him saying, “Charlene, can’t you go just a little faster?” She broke down and cried and it made him feel so bad. He had to come later to apologize. He said, “I am sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to put pressure on you. I just want you to succeed in whatever you do.”

Jeff also recalled the time he showed Paul the ring and asked his daughter’s hand in marriage. He said Paul just sat there and smiled, as if to say that this didn’t come as a surprise. After all, they had dated for four years before they got married. In fact, Jeff got along with his Father-in-Law so well that Charlene remembered the long visits he made to the house before they got married and he would sit there and talk for the longest time with Paul or sometimes they would be watching some sports on T.V. She remembers thinking, “Is he here to visit me or my dad?”

Paul also loved his grandchildren. Both he and his wife were a constant presence in their lives. Charlene said that he absolutely adored them. They would go out to the river, miniature golfing, and attend endless games. It was not out of duty, you could tell they were glad to be there and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, Charlene thinks that Drew’s interest in the outdoors may have originated with his grandfather Paul. So for the two grandchildren, I would like to say, treasure the memories of the times you had with your grandpa and grandma, and continue to develop the interests they passed on to you. Everything you do that was a love of theirs will be a tribute to their investment in your lives.

Of course, Paul loved his other relatives as well. I was told that when the family was told that he and his family was coming back to live in Pennsylvania, there was general rejoicing at a family gathering somewhere. Jeff recalled how at family gatherings Paul never settle down to sit by only one table – he had to move from table to table and speak to as many people as he could. Paul especially loved his nephews and nieces. In fact, he was favorite among many, giving him the courage to sometimes greet his nieces on the phone by saying, “Yes, this is your good looking uncle Paul calling.”

Finally, Paul loved his friends. Many of you here were privileged to be counted among his friends. But do you know what mattered to Paul the most? It mattered that his friends had experienced forgiveness of sins and knew for sure that they were on their way to heaven? You say, “How do you know that? Don’t all preachers say that in funerals just because they have a captive audience there?” Maybe yes, but I don’t do it for that reason. And it just so happens that in Paul’s case, I have proof that what I am saying is true: Paul cared about his friends’ salvation.

A few months ago I preached a message here at the church about heaven. At the end of the service I gave everybody a card that had the words “You are coming to!” on the cover. I asked people to write on the back names of people they loved so much they couldn’t help think about going to heaven without them. I pulled this card out of Paul’s Bible. He wrote several names here. So if you are one of Paul’s friends and you are not sure that you are headed to heaven, maybe your name is here. Paul would hate the thought that you are not coming to join him there someday…

You remember the story of the Sphinx? Just like in that story, our riddle was solved and our hero was not a mythical figure but a historical Person who solved the riddle of death once and for all. As He Himself said it,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26).

Paul strikes a celebratory tone when he exclaims,

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” Now Paul really dares to mock death, thank you very much: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

When Jesus rose again from the dead, He gave all of us hope that we too will rise again one day. God will do something with this old tired body and clothe us with an imperishable body like the one He gave Jesus when He rose again. Some day this cloth we carry around with us, this temporary residency of our soul, will be transformed. He will do something with this DNA he created us with and He will reassemble us in a much more glorious state. And that will put an end to our expiration date.

As John put it at the end of Revelation, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:3-4).

For the family, I would like to remind you of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So when you feel sad, and memories of your beloved father, grandfather, brother, relative or friend try to unsettle you, remember Jesus. He lives to make intercession for us and the Word of God tells us that He was tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin. He is there and He understands so you can go to Him always.

Thank you for coming and may God richly bless you.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

July 13, 2013

Last Sunday I preached on the brevity of life. Little did I know that just a couple of days later a dear friend of mine, John Weaver, would die suddenly in Wooster, Ohio. John’s funeral and memorial service will be this coming Sunday at Wooster Grace and I will have to miss it because it is my installation service at Grace Church, Lititz.

This turn of events and the coincidence of services have given me much more than pause. What if it was my service in Wooster and John’s here in Lititz? John was a godly man. Though a builder by trade, he could well be a pastor somewhere based on his knowledge of Scriptures and love for people. I, on the other hand, can’t build even walls made of Lego’s.

The last couple of days I have only heard (and seen) positive, God-honoring comments about John and his legacy. John touched literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of people with his gentle ways, his firm convictions and exuberant love for God’s Word. I just can’t help but think about what people would be saying and writing about me if it was my service there and his service here… Do you ever think that way? And do you think that you would be remembered as a godly person who left a legacy of love for God and compassion for people? Would people would not only you but your character and integrity also?

Yes, people miss John’s character and integrity. I also miss his generosity. John gave in so many ways. A thoughtful guy, he never missed an opportunity to bless someone, even if he did it behind the scenes.

Today I thought of Dorcas, “who was always doing good and helping the poor,” according to Acts 9. When she died suddenly, the poor widows who came to her funeral actually brought with them Dorcas’ evangelism tools — the robes and other clothing she had made and given them while she was alive (Acts 9:39).

What would people bring to my funeral? Only the funny jokes I told or a memory of a time I actually went out of my way to make sure that they were blessed? Scraps of memory from a reluctant follower or a flood of vivid reminders of an unwaivering faith in a God who delivers?

What would people bring to your funeral? On Sunday the auditorium at Wooster Grace will be filled with people who loved John and there won’t be a single one who will have any doubts where he stood in his love for God and people. I can’t think of a better memory to bring to a funeral. May it be that way for ours as well.

And sorry for the morbid tone. Death does make us melancholic, especially on the eve of a great celebration.

Ivanildo C. Trindade