Our parish has experienced many funerals lately. John Gerhard was a pastor in the 17th century. His parish saw many births and baptisms, but many deaths also through war and the plague. Death and funerals were a regular part of his ministry.
I thought that his month I would share with you one of his meditations on death from his Manual of Comfort for the Severely Ill (Enchiridion consolatorium oder Tröstliches Handbüchlein Johann Gerhard's wider den Tod und die Anfechtungen beim Todeskampfe).
“The afflicted person says: ‘My illness could be terminal. I know I am mortal anyway. But this life seems sweet. This world still seems beautiful. The only life I know is this life in this body.’
The comforter says: ‘God created you, not for this poor, short life, but for everlasting life. God created Adam and Eve, our first parents, to live forever’.
You were redeemed by Christ not for this hard life but for that blessed life waiting for you in heaven. ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ (1 Tim. 3:15).
Through the Gospel the Holy Spirit has called you into Christ’s kingdom, not to be happy for a little while on earth, but to move one day from the kingdom of grace to the kingdom of glory, from the church militant to the church triumphant, from the vale of tears to the land of joy.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’ (1Cor. 15:19). If you are soon to be led through the door of death into the life for which the Father created you, the Son redeemed you, and the Holy Spirit called you, do not reject the gracious will of God toward you (Luke 7:30). If God is calling you, follow with joy!’’
This little meditation calls us to change our perspective on death and on this life. This life is only a short part of our journey. And the church militant, the church on this side of eternity is the minority! The multitude of believers that have passed on, have passed to the Church triumphant. And this Church triumphant will remain forever while the church militant will end in Christ coming back in glory to establish the eternal kingdom. And remember, we are surrounded by a cloud of innumerable angels and witnesses who have attained perfection (Hebrews 12:22-24). They are watching us and supporting us with their prayers.
~ Pastor Jason
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