On Rodney Dangerfield’s gravestone, it says. “There goes the neighborhood.” Somewhere there’s a gravestone that reads, “Here lies John Yeast. Pardon me for not rising.” More than one headstone reads, “I told you I was sick.” One of the cleverest tombstones can be found in Cascade Cemetery in Cascade, Iowa. On the back of Maxine Menster’s gravestone is a recipe: “Mom’s Christmas Cookies.” The family said she that Maxine often said she would only share her recipe “over my dead body.” They granted that wish, apparently.
What will your headstone say? When people remember you, when they visit your grave, what do you want them to know? What do you want them to think about? Some members of our church have given this some serious thought. In one case, we brainstormed some ideas in my office, but I never knew her final choice until I spoke with the funeral director after she passed away. Here it is. This is what is on her headstone: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)
Is that normal? Is that what we think about doing at a funeral or at a graveside? Giving thanks? Saying that God is good? Praising him for his love? It ought to be.
This passage says, “Don’t look at me. Look to the Lord.” To say that he is good is an understatement – consider the creation he’s given us to enjoy. To say that God is loving and that his love will endure forever – look no further than the cross of Christ. On Jesus’ shoulders as he, the perfect Son of God hung on Calvary’s cross, were your sins, my sins, the sins of all. We know that any hope of heaven that rests on people – on us, on anyone – any hope of heaven based on human sincerity or effort is a false hope.
Our Savior redeemed us, paid for our sins with his holy, precious blood. He assures us of a home in heaven by his resurrection from the dead. He brought us into the family of God through Holy Baptism, gave us the gift of saving faith and strengthens that faith through the hearing of the Word and reception of the Sacrament.
So, your time is coming/my time is coming, the time when you/I will be mourned and remembered. What will yours say? Not the obituary with your life story, your accomplishments, your family connections. What will your headstone say?
And since most people don’t put a lot of writing on a gravestone – usually just name, date of birth and date of death – I’ll ask it this way: What will your confession be? How will you want to be remembered? Will it be all about you – your life, your accomplishments – or will you be ready to point to the Lord? This isn’t just a wonderful confession of faith. It’s an explanation of what we’ll be doing for all eternity. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1)
To God alone be the glory,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand