Sunday, March 15, 2009

Speaking words of life and death

Our home phone rang just after 6 a.m. Sunday morning and I was told to put on my service dress and report to the military personnel flight as soon as possible. It was the casualty notification assistant and I was to inform the next of kin of the death of a loved one.

I was awake when he called, preparing to lead worship at church that morning. I made different plans, spoke to Kristin, got ready, and was just about to leave the house when the phone rang again. There had been a miscommunication and another officer was already en route; I wasn't needed after all.

As I dressed down, I remembered sketchy details about the last time I was involved with casualty notification. It's been about 10 years since I drove out to a farm in Pennsylvania to inform the parents of the death of a young airmen. As you can imagine it is heart-wrenching duty. As soon as the vehicle pulls in front of the house and men in service dress step out, the family knows exactly why you're there and intense emotions of grief begin.

After putting away my uniform I tried to return to what I was doing before the phone call this morning--I found this impossible. It will be good to go to the Lord's house in a couple of hours and hear his word of grace. How stark is the difference between the good news I will deliver during worship today and the bad news that I was to deliver to that poor family! But isn't this the message of the Bible? We are dead in our sins, cut off from our Father; but there is new, eternal life for all who repent and trust in Jesus. May this family and all of us know and be thankful for the comforting words of God.

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