We spent some of the waning hours of 2018 saying goodbye to one of my best friends’ 95-year-old father. In 2018, I was privileged to join in the celebration of home-going for the fathers of two of our dearest friends. I also said a final goodbye to my own dad.
My friend had the God-given strength to give the message at the funeral service himself.
He described his dad as a “giant of the faith,” and I could not more wholeheartedly agree. His father was a missionary to the African Congo for eight years, a Bible college professor, a pastor, and in later years, an assistant funeral director. He was always serving others.
And as God usually does, He chose to teach me at this funeral with just a single verse. This is not a verse for lightweights, so you won’t hear it at most funerals.
It was perfect for this one.
It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. – Ecclesiastes 7:2
For many, this verse is a painful reminder of one of life’s certainties. But it also begs the question: Why is it better to mourn than to feast? The answer came quickly, as I set there in the pew:
Where there is mourning, there is love.
I’ll admit, most feasts I attend are with people who love each other. But it’s not a requirement. People can (and often do) feast with total strangers for all types of reasons. I just don’t get around enough to attend those feasts.
But you can’t truly mourn without a deep, abiding love.
Mourning a loss brings people together in a way nothing else can. Some, like his direct family or close friends, deeply loved my friend’s father. Others may not have known him, but deeply love his family and friends, and mourned their loss with them. My family is blessed to love both the man, and his family.
Still others were loved by this giant of the faith. Many at that funeral mourned simply because my friend’s father loved them. And countless others, many living in the remotest parts of Africa, would have also honored him at his funeral, had they known of his passing and had the means to get there.
I’m eternally grateful to say that my friend’s father also loved me.
These days, we have the Internet, the “world-wide web” as it is called, with Internet addresses even starting with the initials “www.” The funeral is available to be seen around the world using this modern communication tool.
But “world-wide webs” aren’t new. Jesus started one when he told his disciples, after his resurrection, that they would be witnesses of the Gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to “the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The life of my friend’s father is further proof. A life lived for others, through the love of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, will create a web of love around the world. Not everyone’s web will reach quite as far as my my friend’s father’s does, but you will be surprised how far your web of love will go.
Better to be in a house of mourning, indeed.