A number of years ago I went to a church just down the hill from the church where I was pastor to attend a funeral out of professional courtesy. The funeral was for a man that was the patriarch of that church and to some a pilar of the community. This small country church was packed. I found room in the balcony. This turned out to be a good seat because I could not only see the pastor but everyone who was attending.
The service was unremarkable; it followed the outline from the hymnal they were using. The hymnal was from the 50s, so it used thy, thou, and thee a lot. The service didn’t become interesting until the sermon when the pastor used the phrase, “Heaven is a place that is prepared for those who are prepared.” This was his interpretation of the scripture he read just a few minutes before. It was from the 14th chapter of the gospel of John: The pertinent part is below.
Let not your heart be troubled:ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions:if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also
“Heaven is a place that is prepared for those who are prepared.”, that pastor proclaimed. I was taken aback by this statement. While he explained how the man whose funeral we were attending was “prepared”, I looked across the congregation to see if there was any observable reaction to the pastor’s message. A few people seemed uncomfortable, but most seemed fine with this message. “What the heck does it mean to be prepared for heaven?”, I asked myself.
The interesting thing here is that the man whose funeral I was attending was known for bullying members until he got his way at the church, cheating in his business practices in years past, and leaving a dilapidated eyesore of a building when he stopped doing business. However, the pastor went on to describe him as a pillar of the church and community. He told us what great faith this man had. He listed all the things he had accomplished for the church. It didn’t matter that the church had less than two dozen worshipers on a Sunday.
As he continued I looked across those gathered again. Mostly what I saw were stone like faces. I wondered what they must be thinking. Were they also questioning what it meant to be “prepared”. I wondered about the wife and family. How could they be sure they were “prepared” and would see their loved one in heaven?
As for me I count on the grace of God for my salvation, not what I do. How about you?
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