Loving the Journey with…

Pastor John

“Now I Lay Me, Down To Sleep…”

I have been interested in the subject of death since I was a little boy. I know that sounds odd and a bit creepy, but it’s true, though I’m not sure why it is true. It’s not like there were any personal near-death experiences I dramatically escaped. There was that time when I was about 11 years old, and I was travelling with my mom and dad when we ran out of gas on a lonely stretch of road along the Ohio River late at night. We were eventually picked up by a couple of hippies driving an old, beat-up looking station wagon. I was convinced that they were going to drive us out in the middle of nowhere, kill us and dump our bodies. They didn’t. They drove us to the nearest gas station where we called my brother, David, who came to pick us up and who took a fiendish glee in the fact that his mother, father, and little brother had been rescued from hitchhiking by hippies.

Maybe my fascination with death started with the once popular bedtime prayer I was taught to pray: Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

That’s a cheery way to send your kids off to bed, isn’t it? Who could sleep after praying that? “You mean I might not make it through the night, Mommy?”

Maybe it’s because I heard my Uncle Otha say to my dad and the rest of their siblings every time he left a family gathering: “One of us is going to bury the rest of us.” Of course, while that is true, it kills the mood of a party (no pun intended).

Maybe it’s because whenever I was getting ready to depart after a visit with my parents, I would say to my dad, “I’ll see you next time, Dad.” He would quickly say, “If I’m still living and if the good Lord wills.” That was my father’s standard goodbye line.

The first summer I was the pastor of a church, a two-year old boy in the little village where our church was located, drowned in a pond. I was asked to do his funeral. I was 18. None of my classes in Bible college prepared me for that.

In my early 20’s, I had a cousin who was just a few years older than me that was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. That certainly cast a heaviness over our extended family dynamics. And to make it even heavier, it was the only son of the uncle who always said the “one of us is going to bury the rest of us” line. I’m sure he had no idea that would include his beloved boy.

Understanding, observing, and talking about death has shaped my life, my family and my ministry…and that’s why I thank God for the gospel.

Theologian Paul Tillich points out that there are three primary needs of contemporary people that only the gospel of Jesus Christ can meet:

· the need for release from guilt· the need for hope in death· the need for purpose in life

The gospel of Jesus Christ alone resolves those basic needs. His death cleanses us from all our sin; our past is forgiven. His resurrection promises life after death; our future is assured. And His presence in our daily life gives us purpose and a sense of direction; our present is empowered.

I have preached the gospel since I was a late teenager. I do so because it’s true, because it works, and because it’s needed–especially as we think about what we need to know before we go.

Join us this Sunday at 9:30am or 11:15am at Apopka, Lake County, or online for part two of Things To Know Before You Go.

Loving the gospel Journey,

Pastor John