Bring Out Your Dead – This Week’s Call to Worship

Standing at the deathbed of a friend, I made a promise to another. We watched as the nurse felt the hands and feet of our barely breathing loved one to assess for the presence of remaining life. “Promise me,” my healthy friend whispered, “you’ll make them check me thoroughly for signs of life. My hands and feet are always cold.”

That moment when a living being passes from life to death is so profound; it’s hard-wired into us to fear being pronounced dead before our time.

And yet, in the church, we do this with abandon.

In my younger days, I was liberal in my use of this judgment, declaring this church or that denomination or some individual “white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.”  Because, you see, when I was young, I was all-knowing, and quite capable of detecting Pharisees, hypocrites, and posers in the ranks. In fact, I felt it my duty not only to declare them dead but also to inform them of their status.

Strangely, though, the longer I know Jesus, the less eager I am to call time-of-death on someone who claims to be my brother or sister in Christ. In fact, now when I sit in a room full of believers, I’m no longer trying to sniff out the dead as much as I am praying for eyes to detect every sign of life, no matter how faint. Like the scene from the movie Titanic when the rescue boats paddle gently between the floating dead, I search hard to be sure not to abandon even one soul to the icy sea who may still have a chance at survival.

There’s plenty of room in the boat. 

 

We aren’t as smart as we think and some things are too important to mess with – taking the vital signs of someone’s soul is one of them. Paul warns us, in Romans 14: 4 with these words: “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

Some believers are robust with eternal life, as if they already inhabit their final destination. You just know that death for them will be like taking a single step across heaven’s threshold with barely a missed beat in the rhythm of their souls. Other believers linger on life support, barely a pulse, pale, hovering so near to death they warrant constant care and attention. For them, death will be like a jolt from an AED, shocking them into the fullness of life kingdom-side. But still, they do arrive. They make it.

How clumsy we are with one another and so insensitive we risk snuffing the barely glowing embers of living souls by trying to manhandle them into full flame. I remember once, while camping, our matches were wet but we desperately wanted a fire. Beneath the charred coals of the previous nights’ bonfire, we located a tiny glowing ember. We were gentle with it, protective, and careful to coax the tiny spark of heat into a flame large enough to reignite what was so close to burning out.

It was work to tease the fire out of that dying ember. It requires tedious and straining effort to search for survivors at sea or buried beneath rubble in the wake of disasters. There are individuals, though, who know the worth of a single soul and so, they embrace every effort at encouraging life.

How much more, in the church, should we?

Pray for heat-seeking eyes that can detect the faintest ember. Ask for ears that hear the faintest cry for help. Ask for sensitivity to understand the worth of a soul and not to consider it a task beneath you or requiring too much from you to bear with those who hover near death.

Paul continues his encouragement in Romans 15:1-6 saying: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Are we Christians, like Marines, willing to expend every effort to ensure that we “leave no man or woman behind?” Or do we rush to slam shut the coffin on those who may yet live? Do you want to be responsible when Jesus opens up some poor soul’s coffin for the scratch marks He finds on the inside?

Endurance and encouragement. Weave these practices into your days for the sake of those who barely cling to life.

When you gather to worship this week, ask Jesus to give you eyes to see the life that is around you – life that is bursting forth like the blossoms of spring and life that is dormant beneath cold, winter branches. Ask Him to let you in on the search for survivors and experience the thrill of calling out, “Here’s one! Here’s another one. Barely alive but still breathing! Help me pull him into the boat!”

*Allow me to invite you to visit my speaking page and ask that you think of me if you’re looking for someone to speak or teach at your next woman’s event or if you just have four or five women gathered in your living room and you’d like to chat! I’m always eager to fan the flames in person.


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5 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Cathy Baker says:

    We just returned from a family funeral. Let’s just say it gave us a lot to talk about on the 30 minute drive home. Thank you for this post, Lori. The Lord used her words to confirm something we discussed. God bless you, my friend.

  2. Maxine D says:

    More and more I have been aware of the ‘power of the tongue’ of recent months – may I be used to speak life, not death, oh Lord. Thank you for this timely post Lori.
    Blessings
    Maxine

  3. What a profound realization! This is a beautiful post and I applaud your mature perspective on what being a Christian really is about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I’m new to your blog, and am loving it. Be blessed!