Here is my column for Sunday morning:
This past week I was at our denominational meeting for clergy. Hundreds of us gathered from all parts of Nebraska. We met for three and a half days. I did a wedding on Friday night and Saturday, so I only met with my colleagues for two and a half of those days.
On Wednesday afternoon we had the Memorial Worship Service for the clergy who died during the previous year. I think there were six or seven. Most of them were retired. One was active. The worship leader read the names of the deceased pastors, rang a little bell, and then there was a moment of silence. Later we watched a video that had pictures of the deceased pastors. The families of these men and women sat in a special section in the front and center of the room. I didn’t personally know any of the pastors or their families, but I know certain things about them and about their families simply because I share the same vocation in life. I felt a sense of loss as I sat through the hour long service.
As I was sitting at a table during the Memorial Service with a few friends, I realized something: one day it would be my name that is read, one day my picture would be on the screen, and one day my family: Amber, Benjamin, and David would be sitting on those chairs. The preacher continued to talk, but I wasn’t really listening. I’m sure that has happened to you before! I wasn’t thinking about death. I was thinking about life.
I want to fast forward about two hours. While my colleagues were meeting in the big room, I took my Bible, got up from my seat, and left. I was asked to speak to the hundred or so high school students who were at the same conference, so I wandered around the Cornhusker Hotel until I found the correct room. A few minutes later I began speaking.
They were all at the Memorial Service as well. I told them about my little epiphany. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it went like this:
Here’s the deal. We are all here for a limited time. I don’t think it is death we fear. I think what we are really afraid of is not living. I think what we are really afraid of is having our families sit in those chairs and have to look at those pictures and mourn the life that never was. We are all either dying or we are living. You have an incredible opportunity in front of you to live. I don’t know you, but I know something about you: you don’t want to go through the motions of life and just survive. You want a life that matters you, to others, and to God. You want to thrive. So do it and don’t look back.
I hope they found those words helpful and I hope you do too.