When I was 16 years old there were two things I said I would never do again. First, I declared that I would never wear a suit and tie. I told my parents that it wasn’t my style. Second, I swore I would never go to another funeral. I laugh now. It seems like that’s all I do these days. In the last 10 days I’ve been to five funerals.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I picked up the newspaper on my birthday. I turned 61 this week. As I thumbed through to the obituary page, I noticed that the only death recorded was of a man my age. It was a stark reminder that you just never know when your time is going to come. It reinforced the truth that we need to learn to enjoy every day as if it was a gift.
Life happens. We can’t control everything but we can choose how we will live. That was very evident in the funerals I attended. Each of the men had chosen to live well. Glowing testimonies were given of each and we were told of their love for their families and their deep appreciation of their community. They had lived lives that touched others and made lasting impressions.
I was reminded of a sermon I heard Dr. Tony Campolo deliver several years ago. Standing before a gathering of nearly a thousand men at the annual Windham County Men’s Fellowship in Danielson, Conn., he began with a challenge. He said “Are you living in such a way that those who know you, but don’t know God, will come to know God because they know you?”
Campolo pointed out that we live in a lost and hurting world. When all is said and done, he suggested, the future will depend upon those of us who reach out to make a difference. I think the name of his sermon was “Titles or Testimonies?” In the message he noted that a lot of people will collect impressive titles. They will have earned positions of honor and prestige. That’s OK.
Then he looked at us and said, “Titles are good. Testimonies are better.” You see testimonies speak of the ripple effect of your life upon the people you meet along the way. Testimonies come after a life that has been well lived in the service of others. They are given for people who have embodied the love of God in their lives.
There were stories like that told at the funerals this week. I remember Dr. Campolo asking his audience, “When you were born, you were the only one that cried. Everyone else was happy. When you die will you be the only one who is happy and will everyone else will be crying? That’s your testimony. You touched people’s lives.”
As I left the last funeral this week, I thought about what I had heard. Then I loosened my tie and went back to work. You see, it takes a lifetime to create a testimony. My name wasn’t in the obituaries today and neither was yours. So there is still time for you and me. So let’s go out and bless someone today and show them the love of God.
The Rev. Cal Lord is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Westerly.