WHAT DO YOU WANT ON YOUR TOMBSTONE?
Another Halloween is behind us now where many people spent the evening trying to scare themselves and others out of their skins. What is the fascination with fear and death? Perhaps it is the subconscious idea that we are cheating death by playing with it that delights us so, but in reality…BOO! Everyone dies! The most scary thought however is not the inevitable but the futility of life itself. This fear is personified in Shakespeare’s classic play, Macbeth, where just before “King Macbeth is beheaded he sums up his life:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act 5,Scene5, Lines 22-31
Macbeth is a tragic tale of one who lived selfishly and passionately and lost his soul. We must remember as we live that we will one day give an account for our actions to the One who created us in His image.
HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE?
Ezekiel 27:1-1-, John 15:5
Ezekiel was a prophet to the Jews. In one of his visions he saw a valley of dry bones which came to life by God’s power. The prophecy foretold the day that Israel would become a nation. This occurred in 1948, yet the illustration of God putting flesh on dry bones and breathing life into otherwise dead corpses screams truth at us today. If we are to live beyond futility then we must receive our life and purpose from God who created us. Apart from Him we are nothing! (John 15:5)
EPITAPHS Philippians 1:21
As the popular pizza commercial use to ask, “What would you like on your tombstone?”
If your life were to be summed up in one sentence, how would it to read?
The following are reported to be actual epitaphs on tombstones:
Here lies Ann Mann; She lived an old maid And she died and old Mann. (Bath Abbey, England)
Here lies Lester Moore; Four slugs from a 44 No Les No Moore (Tombstone, Arizona)
Sacred to the memory of Anthony Drake, who died for peace and quietness sake. His wife was constantly scolding and scoffin’, So he sought for repose in a twelve dollar coffin. (Burlington, Massachusetts)
Underneath this pile of stones lies all that’s left of Sally Jones Her name was Briggs, It was not Jones, But Jones was used to rhyme with stones. (Skaneateles, New York)
Here under this sod and under these trees Is buried the body of Solomon Pease. But here in his hole lies only his pod His soul is shelled out and gone up to God. (Falkirk, Scotland)
He called Bill Smith a liar. (Cripplecreek, Colorado)
Beneath this stone, this lump of clay lies uncle Peter Daniels, Who too early in the month of May took off his winter flannels. (Midway, Massachusetts)
I don’t know what was on the Apostle Paul’s tombstone, but if I had to write it, I think I would just record what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live as Christ and to die is gain.” That pretty much sums up Paul’s life. The question is, what sums up yours?
A good exercise is to write your own epitaph from time to time. The whole point of writing one of course is not to engage in a little grave humor, but to focus on how others see you. The picture might not be very pretty. There was nothing at all written on the stone that Ebeneezer Scrooge saw for himself in his third Christmas Eve vision in the Charles Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol. Gone and totally forgotten, was to be his fate if he did not change. There’s still time. Try writing an epitaph for yourself. If you don’t like the result, make the changes necessary before your time runs out!
1 Corinthians 15:51-58
As I said before… Boo! Everyone dies! The Christian, however, is promised a glorious resurrection. In living for Christ we gain in death. We gain eternal life in Christ Jesus. Nothing scary about that! Mysterious? Of course! “Eye has not seen nor ear heard of the wonderful things that God has planned for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) Yes, mysterious to be sure, but not scary. Scary, is eternal separation from God… Hell.
For those of us who choose, as the Apostle Paul did, to live by faith and not by fear, there is a wonderful promise for an abundant life on earth and life beyond in the everlasting. What do you want on your tombstone? In other words, what is to be said of your life? Will the way you live today guide others to “live abundantly” tomorrow. When death comes knocking at your door will you embrace it as God’s promised adventure or shiver in hopeless regret?