Sermon by Rev. Dr. John E. Duckworth (Christianity / Missionary Baptist)
A courageous conversation
By: Rev. Dr. John E. Duckworth
Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, Westland, MI
Intro - why is this important enough to preach about?
A) How many of us want to go to heaven?
B) How many of us know the way to heaven?
C) Death actually completes the cycle of life.
D) Death also begins eternity.....
- If you haven’t accepted Jesus, then death brings an eternity of suffering and punishment for dying in your sins.
- If you have accepted Jesus, then death brings an eternity of joy and paradise for allowing Jesus to pay for your sins.
E) The reality is that all of us will eventually die one day, no matter how many fountains of youth you bathe in or how many vitamins you take.
F) I would love to live a long life, but I also realize that this earth is not my final home and if I want to see Jesus and live with him in the accommodations he spoke of in John 14 I have to leave this planet.
G) Unless one is suicidal or works in the industry, the thought of your demise and life without you doesn’t sit too well.
H) Often seniors begin to accept that their bodies aren’t what they used to be and that death is a reality that they will probably face sooner than later.
I) However for one who is in the prime of their life, the concept of dying is perhaps the furthest thing from their minds.
J) As your Pastor, I must share a reality with you: most of the folks whose bodies are currently in funeral homes really hadn’t planned on being there at this moment.
K) While I don’t want this sermon to be totally morbid, I must share the truth with you and state that we all will leave here one day and some day.
L) Your day may not be my day and my day may not be your day, and your day may be before my day or my day may be before your day but rest assured that both your day and my day have already been ordered.
M) If you live, you will die and the only way to avoid death is to avoid life!
N) Since the gift of life has already been given to us, we must acknowledge that the gift of death will one day also visit us.
O) Life is a strange bird, because you usually don’t know when it’s going to begin nor do you know when it’s going to end.
P) Many have pondered the question, "Pastor what’s the difference between a funeral and a homegoing?" Glad you asked.
- A funeral is defined as the observances held for a dead person usually before burial or cremation.
- In one sense everyone will have a funeral, a service for one who has died.
- A homegoing service is defined as the celebration of a life that has been promoted from this life to eternal life.
- Another way at looking at the two is that when you are in Christ, when you die, although there will be sadness the solace is in the fact that you are now living with the Lord in heaven. This is seen as a homegoing, because you are going to that place that Jesus spoke of in John 14.
- Now if you decide to leave here and haven’t established a relationship with Jesus, then all that others can do is mourn the physical death and the spiritual death because the Bible says, “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” However, if you chose not to accept the gift then you are without a savior.
Q) As a matter of fact, the oldest book in the New Testament and Paul’s first writing to the Thessalonians were written to answer some serious questions about life after death.
R) Paul comforts them by assuring them that if by chance they died before Jesus returned that they wouldn’t be forgotten but would actually rise first.
S) So we must all understand that being a Christian is actually engaging in a courageous conversation.
T) I know that for many of us here today, we are uncomfortable, but it’s time that we had a heart-to-heart courageous conversation.
II. It’s time to learn from the experiences of others before us.
A) Aesop tells the story of The Old Lion and The Fox....
- An old lion whose teeth and claws were so worn that it was as easy for him to get food like it was in his younger days, pretended to be sick.
- He broadcast to everyone and then would lie down in his cave to wait for visitors, and when they came to offer him their sympathy he ate them up.
- One day a fox came to the cave of the old lion, but was very cautious about his encounter with the old lion.
- Standing at a safe distance from the cave, he politely inquired about the health of the lion.
- The old lion told the fox that he was very sick and asked the fox to step in for a moment.
- But the fox wisely stayed outside, while thanking the old lion for the kind invitation.
- "I should be glad to do as you ask, but I have noticed that there are many footprints leading into your cave and none coming out."
- Then the fox asked the question, “How do your visitors find their way out again?”
B) Let’s unpack this story and apply it to our message today.
C) The fox realized that unless he did something different than the others before him, he would also end up with the same fate that fell upon the others before him.
D) Mr. Fox was able to learn from the tragic experience of others that if he didn’t have a way out of the cave, then he wasn’t going to enter the cave.
E) Mr. Fox learned that life will teach you lessons if you are willing to learn from life’s experiences.
F) Mr. Fox had discovered that those before him hadn’t properly planned their escape from the cave and therefore they became victims in the cave.
G) All I am trying to say this morning is that Mr. Fox was willing to have a courageous conversation before he entered the cave.
H) Mr. Fox was willing to have a courageous conversation before he encountered the possibility of death.
III. "Why this sermon today, pastor?"
A) As one who has been preaching for 27
years and in pastoral ministry for 14 years, I have seen some things when folks have died or reached the point of death.
B) To be unprepared is often more tragic than dying itself.
C) When I reflect upon how many bedsides have I been at and how many family arguments have broken out during the reality of death, I can honestly testify that when things are in order it runs a whole lot smoother.
D) When one has died, particularly unexpectedly, it can bring a serious burden to the family and those left behind.
E) I personally believe that when one is born again, the Lord gives them some indication that their time is near.
F) There have been too many instances where persons had done things they normally wouldn’t do, but made certain they did these things.
- The last time I saw my brother, he had come up from Atlanta and made an effort to visit as many family and friends as possible.
- He spent extra days here in order to see and visit everyone he could, before he made his journey back to Atlanta.
G) If you think about it, one of the reasons that I am a Christian is because I wanted to be prepared for life after death.
H) Some folks don’t believe that there is life after death, well I’ll simply say I am willing to live my life on the "just in case" program.
I) I am willing to believe in Jesus and live my life accordingly just in case there is life after death, because I am not willing to take that gamble.
J) So it’s based on my experiences and the reality that many of us have not made the proper preparations for something that will happen to us one day if not today.
K) As husbands and wives, you should unselfishly think about how your spouse will be able to survive without you and the burden your loss will have on your family.
L) I’ll say this again, if you are living you need to have a life insurance policy somewhere paid up with the current beneficiaries in place.
M) You need to put something in place now that will ensure that your spouse will be financially able to carry on and provide the goals that you have set for your children.
N) Don’t leave it up to someone else. Take the responsibility and do this now; don’t leave your family in the hole because you were not thoughtful about them beyond you living.
O) I know this is hard stuff to swallow this morning, I remember my dear grandmother who would call my mother over to help her get things in order.
- She would tell my mother to call an attorney over so that they can put things in place.
- However every time my mother would go over my grandmother’s and call the attorney, my grandmother would tell my mother, "don’t rush me off the scene."
P) Everyone should have a will, whether you are married or not, have children or not, you should have something in place that will carry out your wishes in the event that you leave here.
Q) Let me say this with all sincerity, if there is no one left that you trust or to leave anything to, leave it to your church.
- A lot of churches have been blessed by those who tithe even in their death to make sure that others benefited from their death.
- Too often we think that having a bench with someone’s name on it is what it’s all about, that’s a nice gesture but if you really want to make an impact I dare you to leave behind a scholarship or endowment.
- I am not begging, but I am being real: in our community our churches usually have to help bury folks but in other communities churches are blessed when folks make their transition.
R) If you are young parents, you need to seriously consider who would you entrust your children to in the event of an unexpected and untimely death.
S) I am talking about having a courageous conversation, sitting down and thinking about how would you like for things to occur when you leave this earth.
T) In our planning, our families or close friends should be considered.
U) Many of us don’t have family that we can really depend on, and if that’s the case, you should be able to find a friend who you can trust.
V) Gethsemane please, please, don’t be afraid to have that courageous conversation.
W) I would rather you be uncomfortable talking about it than to be neglectful not doing anything about it!
IV. Today is your day, we have a chance to learn about something that all of us need to know more about.
A) I have been led to bring this to us on a Sunday; I have done it on Tuesday and even a Wednesday.
B) Today we have an opportunity to consider having a serious courageous conversation because life happens, and it happens whether you are ready or not.
C) Again as Pastor, it’s my responsibility to feed the sheep and prepare you for life and death.
D) So after this worship experience is over, we are going to go over into the W.W. Davis Fellowship Hall and learn about Advance Directives, Patient Advocates, Pain Management and Comfort, Hospice Care, Palliative Care.
E) We are going to learn about the importance of you sharing your wishes with your family, because no one plans on having heart attacks or strokes but they happen.
F) No one plans on getting into major car collisions or having tragic events cut their quality of life short, but they happen.
G) Now is the time to have this courageous conversation about your wishes and you decide whether or not you want:
- Artificial nutrition.
- To live on a ventilator.
- To have certain surgical procedures.
- To have dialysis.
- To have certain antibiotics.
z Blood transfusions and/or blood products in your body.
- To donate organs or tissue.
- H) These decisions need to be your decisions and you need to make your desires and wishes known.
- I) Please don’t be so selfish that you will leave these decisions totally upon your family to make, while they are dealing with the potential of losing you also.
J) Having a courageous conversation doesn’t mean that we throw faith out the window, nor does it deny that God is still a miracle worker.
K) What it does is put things in place and allows you to do your part, because you will not leave here until God is ready for you to leave.
L) However I do believe that one has the right to have some dignity as to having their wishes followed and desires made known.
M) So as your Pastor, I am pleading with you to go over to the W.W. Davis Fellowship Hall after worship experience and at least listen to this courageous conversation.
V. The text
A) For many of you, you are trying to figure out how is this a sermon?
B) I do believe that we are to follow Jesus as our example.
C) While if you believe that you are to follow Jesus, it just so happened that before Jesus died on Calvary he also had a courageous conversation.
D) Too many of us only see the riding on the donkey and folks praising him, but there’s also a suffering side associated with Jesus.
E) This text is usually only preached around Easter time; actually it’s one of the last seven sayings of Christ on the Cross.
F) The scene is the crucifixion, and Jesus has now reached Calvary, Skull Hill or Golgotha.
G) The soldiers have just divided up his clothes and threw dice for his robe leaving him naked on the cross.
H) John notes that there are five people who have actually come to the cross with Jesus.
I) He had at least 12 disciples who spent three and a half years with him, but there are only five folks with him at this darkest hour.
J) The strange thing is that out of all the folks who followed Jesus, on his darkest day there are only five people with him and only one of them is a disciple.
K) Those standing with him are.....
- His mother Mary, whose heart must have been tearing as she watched her firstborn in agony and punished for a crime he didn’t commit.
- Salome, his auntie and the mother of James and John, who was married to Zebedee, making James and John Jesus’ cousins.
- Mary, the wife of Cleopas (kle-op-as).
4. Mary Magdalene, who Jesus had healed of some demons earlier.
L) Jesus is dying but the third word of the seven is geared to teach us a lesson today: he is engaging in a courageous conversation.
M) Jesus is making the necessary accommodations for his family in his absence.
N) He understands that he is leaving the scene but before he leaves the scene he shows his selflessness by making sure his mother is cared for and he didn’t want to just leave it to someone else to handle.
O) Jesus was the firstborn of Joseph and Mary and tradition states that Joseph had already died and therefore the responsibility of taking care of momma rested on Jesus.
- In that day, it was part of honoring one’s parents to provide for them in their old age.
- Mary was probably in her mid to late 40s, a widow, and lived in a society in which women rarely earned much money unless they sold their bodies.
- Mary is solely dependent on her oldest son, who is now dying.
P) Although Jesus had other brothers and sisters, his own brothers didn’t accept him as their savior yet so they were behind in Galilee.
Q) Jesus had to deal with who he could trust and depend on, and so his cousin John was standing there near his mother.
R) V. 26 he tells her "Women, here is your son." This was not seen as disrespect to call her "Women" instead of "Mother."
S) V.27 then he tells John, "She is your mother now, take care of her and make sure you treat her like you would your own mother."
T) At a time when Jesus could have been selfish and only concerned about himself, he was concerned for others, not having a pity party, nor feeling sorry for himself but taking care of business.
U) Perhaps he was letting us know that in life there will be challenging times but we shouldn’t be afraid to.....
- Weep with one another.
- Speak to one another.
- Lean on one another.
- Confide in one another.
- Uphold one another.
- Care for one another.
- Pray with one another.
- Be patient with one another.
- Encourage one another.
- Love one another
V) Jesus understands even in dying that his mother would hurt and his disciples would hurt, but he wanted them to know what his wishes were and that although his....
- Pain was severe.
- Torture was unbearable.
- Burden was exhausting.
- Responsibility was great.
- Heart was breaking.
- Battle was fierce.
- Time was short; he had not forgotten nor overlooked the needs of his family!