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  • Writer's pictureNathan Freeman

Celebrating the Life of a Saint

“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:2

If you have ever sat with a loved one before they passed, you know that in that moment, to talk about idle chatter would be a waste of precious time. Talk of the weather and sports teams isn’t even a thought. Fears, regrets, great loves, and goodbyes are spoken in that moment. There is much wisdom in listening to the words of a dying man, much more when the dead speak beyond the grave. This past week, we heard from a friend of ours as we celebrated his life. He wrote a letter as he was home in hospice that he wanted read to loved ones. In part of his letter, he wrote, “I’ve had such peace about walking through these last weeks. My concerns are those I’ll leave behind, those I’ll not see again unless God reveals Himself to you and saves you.”

These are the words of Scott Owen, a friend of Michael Durham and I, who went to be with the Lord. My last conversation with this gentle soul involved him voicing his concern about the health of his dear friend and pastor. Little did we know that Scott himself would have his health and vitality degrade so rapidly within a couple of months. Scott didn’t suffer long with his cancer, for which I am grateful. But I am even more grateful for the way Scott Owen faced his death. The funeral for this departed saint will be forever etched in my mind, and for that, I am also deeply thankful. Scott’s and his wife’s wishes were for friends and family to experience a Christ-centered memorial, and they most certainly did. The impact it had on me will last a lifetime. I had never been to a Christian funeral quite like Scott’s, and it is my guess that many others haven’t either, so I wanted to share what was laid into my heart that day.

First, death separates mankind from all other living things. We know that everything that lives eventually dies, but mankind alone has the ability to ponder the mystery surrounding death. We may like to forget that we will all finally end our time here on this earth, but the writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that it is deeply wise for us to stamp this truth upon our hearts.

We don’t always like to dwell on our own mortality, though. Blaise Pascal told an evangelistic story in an imaginative way to illustrate how most people view death. He said, “It is like we are all dinner guests at one large formal party. Some are chatting and enjoying their food and drink while others are dancing with their loved ones when suddenly, the doors burst wide open. The music abruptly stops, and forks are held in mid-air as a ghastly monster comes in and drags out one of the partygoers. There is much kicking and screaming, but there is no overpowering the beast. When the door finally slams shut behind them, the echoes of the panicked screams eventually fade. There is an icy silence for a while as everyone sits in stunned horror. Finally, there is a little chatter among the remaining guests about the abruptness of it all; fear-riddled faces continue in idle, nervous talk. Eventually, the music starts back up, and soon, people are dancing, and the

sound of clanging silverware on dinner plates is heard once again. With thoughts of the horrific scene thrust from their mind, life goes on, and the party continues.” The way of the world is to escape the reality of our mortality, yet the Bible repeatedly urges us to remember our end, to ‘lay it to heart,’ to remember that we are but like the morning mist that the sun burns off. The way my friend died, though, he wasn’t carried off kicking and screaming like the person in our story. He had already died to the ways of this world, and he knew that his life was hidden with Christ. Scott was ready; the enemy had lost its sting. More life awaited him beyond this one, and he died like he believed it.

Scott’s worship-centered celebration of life reminded me that although pondering death separates us from other living creatures, death does not fully separate us from those we love. We leave behind a legacy to our loved ones. We should all strive to leave others with a lasting imprint of our love for the Lord the way my friend did. During his remaining time on this earth, Scott chose to spend it praying for the salvation of friends and family, worshipping with his church, and reading the blessed words of our Lord.

I want to bear witness in a brief synopsis of what took place at Scott’s memorial from my

perspective. His dear friend Tom took the pulpit first. Tom is small in stature and seems

uncomfortable speaking in a room full of people, but then Tom begins to pray. Goosebumps

crawled up my arms as Tom began pleading with the Lord to meet us there. The meeting started with a heartfelt and heart-revealing prayer. Then, his friend and pastor preached the gospel and bore witness to how Scott died, and Scott died well. He died with a confident assurance that his elder brother Jesus was with him in life and death and that God is the God of the living. Scott knew he was leaving his tent behind, but his soul would live on. Then Michael Durham gave testimony to his friendship with Scott and preached the gospel again with clarity and authority. Then Scott himself, from beyond the grave, preached the gospel of Jesus. His handwritten note reflected the heart of our Lord in wanting everyone he knew to be with the Father as he was going to be with the Father.

Words can not express how deeply I desired so many friends and family to be at Scott’s service with me as the gospel was declared through song, prayer, and preaching. Those of us who are not asleep yet, it is a reminder of the urgency of the call of the gospel. May we all, like the Puritans of old, always ‘remember death’, memento mori, that we may be fully alive in Christ until the day he calls us home.

Below is a link to Scott’s letter.

Scott's letter
Download PDF • 40KB

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