Yesterday I posted about what it means to be "they" to someone and how wonderful it was to be "they" for someone else. Today I saw it again, but it was more than that. What I saw today may have been one of the clearer pictures of the church and the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17. Ever since our church unified with our sister church across the way, I've spent many a day in John 17, reading about how important it was to Jesus for us to have unity, to validate the message He was sent from God.
Ephesians 2 tells the story of how two groups, Jews and Gentiles, because of the sacrificed flesh of Jesus, were brought together, making one where there was two, reconciling both to God for their good and His glory. The hostility between the two groups was obliterated on the cross, the wall of partition was broken down. This wonderful good news, this Gospel, meant for us Gentiles, those far off from the promises of God, were now in the fold and joint heirs with our brothers in Christ, brought near to His very bosom.
This glorious work dovetails nicely with John 17 and Jesus' prayer for unity. Not unity around earthly things, but unity in Christ. Today, at Chris's memorial service, I saw a beautiful tapestry unfold the likes of which I've not seen before. I stood in a Southern Baptist Church, worshiped with a lovely group of Christians who follow the traditions of Messianic Judaism (Christians who observe Jewish tradition and teachings), while we admired a casket built largely from old pews from a very conservative fundamental Baptist Church. It was as if Father was saying, "watch what I can make."
The service was one of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The name of the Lord was exalted, God on High was proclaimed, Jesus was heralded as our hope in times of mourning because we, as He will one day be resurrected and united to live with Him forever. I saw Jew and Gentile, young and old, Baptist and Messianic observers all worshiping the One True King. We wept with those who wept. We mourned with those who mourned, and we shared the hope we all have in Jesus. Who would have thought in tiny Martin's Mill, TX our sovereign Father would embroider such a wonderful work of art before our eyes.
At the close of the day we all placed a rock on the casket. There are many thoughts on the origin and meaning of this tradition, but today it was about the fact that Chris loved to hunt for rocks. That, coupled with a tradition we see in the Old Testament where the Israelites would pile up stones of remembrance for big events. They would place their Ebeneezer, or their stone of help, in places where God had brought them deliverance and protected them. The old hymn resounds as it pronounces, "Here I raise mine Ebeneezer, hitherby thy help, I've come." In 1 Samuel 7:12, Samuel placed an Ebeneezer saying, "hitherto hath the Lord helped us." Today, He truly helped us. Helped us to grieve, to mourn, and rejoice in the hope of the resurrection.
When the Israelites would pass by these stones, history tells us they would rehearse to the younglings stories of why the stones were there, of the strength of the Lord. Today's stones will be transplanted into a garden display for Felisha, Chris's wife. When their young unborn baby grows to run through the flowers and asks Felisha about the pile of stones, I'm sure she, and the rest of the family will sit and tell of Chris and how he was a stone of help from the Lord. Each stone a story. Each rock a remembrance of a life well-lived for the Lord.
Chris, you will be missed, but the testimony of how you impacted the lives of others was evident today as we filled the house to standing room only to honor you and to remember the grace and the blessing God had for us in knowing you. Rest in peace, my friend, His peace, His Shalom. Till we meet again.