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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Alive in Christ Forever

They all came.

Children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces and nephews came to Northeastern Pennsylvania from as far away as Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Michigan. They came to say goodbye. I’ll always remember the day we gathered under a blue August sky to say our final farewells to my mom. With the pastor’s closing prayer, we filed by, one by one, carefully placing a flower on her casket. In the still and almost reverent moments that followed, someone began to sing. Soon, we all joined in.     

   Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
   I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

   When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun,
   We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.
                           (John Newton, 1725-1807)

Tears slipped down my cheeks as the familiar melody drifted up to heaven. Here on a quiet hillside stood a family. A family bound by grief. A family united in hope. That day’s memory of the family I love and to whom I belong has a hallowed place in my heart. I have drawn on this remembrance for strength many times over the last months.

Then they all returned home. But they didn’t forget. 

One day my sister called. In the course of our conversation, she said, “I’ve been thinking. Mom is in heaven because of the resurrection of Jesus.” What a wonderful truth! I found myself thinking about another funeral, one Jesus attended when He proclaimed Himself the resurrection and the life. Not long after, He proved it. With the empty tomb, Christ conquered death forever (I Corinthians 15).

The Easter season holds a special significance for me this year. The resurrection of Jesus means eternal life for my mom, and someday for me. And for all those who have placed their complete trust in Christ who died so they could live. I think of my sister’s words each time my dad and I visit the quiet hillside cemetery, where I picture my family singing “Amazing Grace.” And where Mom’s tombstone reads, “Alive in Christ Forever.” 

May this Easter season breathe hope into our hearts. He is risen! And that makes all the difference for us – both now and for eternity.

I am the resurrection and the life.
 He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.
John 11:25, 26

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