When we say that final goodbye to those we love, we’re met not only with deep sadness but with our own mortality—and, frequently, matters of faith.
So it was for Catherine Bergstrom, a member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church, Fairfax, Va., who responded to The Lutheran’s “Tell us” question about a meaningful funeral experience. It was the funeral for her son David, an aviator whose Navy jet crashed at an air show on Father’s Day 2000.
The family drove to Oceana Base Chapel, Virginia Beach, Va., for the service, presided over by two chaplains. All the usual funeral elements, some of them specific to the military, were there: eulogies, beautiful flowers, photos of David, music, a bagpiper, a missing-man formation flyover, a reception at the officers’ club. But one moment remains etched in Bergstrom’s mind—the chaplain’s reading of John 11:25-26: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
In her book, The Great Divide Visited: Claiming God’s Grace (Xulon Press, 2005), Bergstrom writes: “How often have I heard those verses from John. How often have they seemed like passing words. But the chaplain read them firmly and deliberately, and paused after he read ‘Do you believe this?’ The words were for everyone, but the question seemed directed at me. Indeed it was. It is so vivid in my mind .... And his question hung in the air. He did not say, ‘Can you believe this?’ or ‘Will you believe this?’ or ‘You do believe this, don’t you?’...
“No. His question was direct, requiring a ‘yes’ or ‘no’... not ‘Maybe’ or ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘If I see him again, I will’ or ‘How can that be?’ ”
In John 11:27, Martha replied to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God ....”
May it be so for us too. That our "maybes" are replaced with "yes!" as we muddle through ordinary days — and confidently face the end of our days.
(See the January issue of The Lutheran for “The final goodbye: Death and taxes are constant, but funerals are changing.”)
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