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Funeral Focus

By Dr. John Ed Mathison
Executive Director
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

Funerals are a reality in our culture today.  This isn’t really any differentjohn ed from years past.  Everyone will die.  All cultures have some form of expression and focus to acknowledge the death of a person.  The Christian focus is on a celebration of life to come.The attendance at funerals is always interesting to see.  I am oftentimes surprised, both positively and negatively at the number of people who attend.  Will Rogers once said that the biggest factor determining the number of people who attend your funeral will be the weather.

An interesting thing just occurred last month in a rural part of China.  The Chinese government is forbidding strippers from performing at funerals in the country.  They have called the burlesque send-offs “uncivilized.”  Evidently family members hire strippers to attract large crowds to funerals.  They think a large attendance at the funeral is a way of guaranteeing good fortune for the deceased in the afterlife.

Part of this new crackdown by arresting strippers and their employers is a result of the “Culture Ministry.”  The Culture Ministry said, “This type of illegal operation disrupts the order of the cultural market.”  They should also have said something about social morals.

Britain has also recently had an interesting twist to funerals.  In order to get more people to come, you can hire weeping professional grievers for wakes and funerals.  You order them from “Rent-A-Mourner.”

The cost is $68 per head.  The rented mourner will read up on the deceased’s life story “so they converse with other mourners with confidence.”  That is sad.  Yogi Berra always had a lot of interesting things to say.  One of his best was, “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.” Some funerals in today’s culture are interesting.  They are often eloquent eulogies and high tributes to the poor soul in the casket, or urn.  Upon hearing the eloquent things said about the deceased, some attendees wonder if they are at the right funeral.

A good Jewish friend shared with me recently about his father’s attending a funeral of a friend.  The presiding Rabbi told of so many extremely good qualities (greatly exaggerated) of his deceased friend that he told those sitting around him that he needed to be excused.  When asked why, he said, “I want to peep in the casket to see if that’s my friend.  I might be at the wrong funeral.”

Abraham Lincoln once listened to all the good things said at the funeral of one of his generals. Lincoln observed, “If he had known he’d get a funeral like this, he’d have died much sooner.”

The important focus about a funeral is not how good the deceased looks, or the quality of the music, or the cost of the casket, or the flower arrangements, or the eloquence of the eulogy.  The focus is not about how many people are coming, but where the deceased is going!

Jesus said, “”I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25) Paul sounded the victory for the Christians, “O death, where is your is your sting?  O grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Focus – Christians never see each other for the last time.

John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.
Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149

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A 13-Year Old’s Thoughts On Race Relations

By Jalen Phifer forjohn ed
John Ed Mathison
Executive Director,
John Ed Mathison Leadership Ministries

For the past five years I have preached each year at the Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church on their race relations Sunday. This is one of our largest African-American churches. Dr. G. W. C. Richardson is the Pastor. In his 35+ years at the church he has had 140 people enter the ministry. He encouraged people to write essays on race relations. A 13-year-old young man, Jalen Phifer, who is already an ordained pastor by that church, wrote the following essay I edited for length:

“We live in a country that has seen its share of shame. From slavery to racism and discrimination, yet America has come a long way. The civil rights movement was a huge step in the right direction to bridge the gap and bring about equality and unity. However, as a nation we still have a journey to complete. I have listed three ways in which I believe America can continue to improve upon race relations.

Race relations can be improved in America if we bring the conversation into our homes and schools. All education starts at home, but it continues into the classrooms where we spend a good portion of our day. Parents can talk to their children about other races. This kind of education will help break down any stereotypes and ignorance that are believed.

I believe it is important to have these conversations in school because if my peers don’t get to learn from each other, then our future is still at risk. As a light skin person, I have heard my share of hurtful and ignorant statements. Everything from mulatto, to white boy, to what are you anyway? Hurtful as they are, I have smiled and most times ignored them. I don’t get to choose my color, but I can choose my character. At the end of the day, it would be my hope that my character is seen before my complexion.

Secondly, I believe that race relations can be improved in America if we have this conversation in church. As a young preacher, I believe that we are all God’s children and that He does not have favorites. So having the discussion in church will make us have to think about what God thinks. As Christians that should be all that matters to us. 

I look around our church and I see mostly us, black people. But God don’t only have black children, He has white, yellow, and brown. These are our neighbors but where are they? We need to seek God’s word on this because I know that He said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

This unity would open the eyes of the community as well. The church is a place that the community looks up to, and this would help them to know that race relations are improving. It’s okay to talk to other races, fellowship and worship with them.

Finally, I believe race relations can be improved in America by our actions. We can learn about it, we can talk about it, we can preach about it, but it means nothing if we don’t put it into action. I believe we must be proactive. Make it a point to go to where other races are and become friends with them. Go places with them and invite them to places with us. If we put ourselves into action, this will help get rid of racism and ignorance. This is the dream I believe Dr. King had. And for all those who died for our civil rights, I believe it will be pleasing to them. But most of all I believe it will make God smile because we will be obeying His word when He tells us to love one another as we love ourselves.

In conclusion, I believe race relations can be improved in three ways, education, conversation in our church, and through our actions. We all have to live in this world together. If we put God first, then all this will fall into place. He made us all, and we can learn a lot from each other. Not only will this improve race relations, but it would make God very happy.”

Thanks Jalen!

John Ed’s blog posts appear each week in For His Glory.

Contact: JAM Executive Suite 4,4131 Carmichael Road, Montgomery, AL 36106 Phone: 334-270-2149

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