(Note: This post was the sixth most read of 2013)
David Cawston, in a sermon entitled “Ready to Face the Music,” began with this riddle. Can you guess the answer?
“There is a preacher of the old school, but he speaks as boldly as ever. He is not popular though the world is his parish, and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language. He visits the poor, calls upon the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion, and the subject of his sermon is always the same. He is an eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could in bringing tears to eyes that never weep. His arguments none are able to refute, nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of his appeals. He shatters life with his message. Most people hate him; everyone fears him.”
“Every tombstone is his pulpit. Every newspaper prints his text, and someday every one of you will be his sermon.”
We know this is true intellectually. But we forget it emotionally. Until it hits close to home. In our family or circle of friends. Yesterday it hit close to home. Again.
I was eating lunch at Applebee’s. Checking my facebook messages. And suddenly a message appeared from Nathan Ward. It said that Marty Pickup had collapsed while playing tennis. Went into cardiac arrest. And died.
What? I must have read this wrong. It wasn’t Marty. Nathan must had made a mistake. Left a name out of the message. Or received some incorrect information. Over the next few minutes I realized it was so.
I was stunned. Shocked. Dazed. While sitting there in a very public place, reading from a very public medium, I was in my own private world, almost in a stupor. I thought of the many times I sat and listened to Marty preach. And teach Bible classes. He did so with such clarity. Kindness. And concern for properly presenting Truth to the hearers. He was always well prepared and he delivered his lessons with power, but in a true spirit of love.
My Mom and Dad attended the Valrico church where he ministered. Later when her health declined Mom moved her membership to a closer congregation. I remember how good Marty and Aimee treated Mom. Their genuine concern. Their gentleness. And compassion.
Marty preached for five years at the Hickman Mills church where I now minister. He is greatly loved and highly respected here in Kansas City. And the news of his passing is shocking to our members as well.
His death is difficult to accept. He has left us too soon. Far too soon. And yet we know the words of the Hebrew writer, “It is appointed once to man to die” (Heb. 9:27).
Indeed death is a sobering word. A cold word. A frightening word. We don’t even like to say it. We prefer euphemisms. We say, “he passed away.’ “He expired.” “He’s gone.” In a lighter vein we speak of someone “pushing up daisies’, or “kicking the bucket,” Or being “six feet under.”
Our joking, however, has a tinge of nervousness attached to it. We don’t like death. We don’t like to think about death. And we don’t want to lose our loved ones to death. From a human viewpoint death seems incomprehensible. Albert Einstein once said, “What is incomprehensible is beyond the realm of science. It is in the realm of God.” Death? It’s in the realm of God.
Thankfully, God gives us some insight into His realm. The Bible provides us a different perspective than my human eyes allow. A better perspective. A clearer view. An eternal outlook. And that is all made possible because of Jesus. Who he was. And what he did. And how he did it. Yes, He arose! His victory over sin, Satan and the sepulcher, gives me hope. (And it gave Marty hope.) They remove death’s foreboding feeling and its solemn prospects.
We share the sorrow of Marty’s untimely passing with his wife, Aimee, their children, his parents as well as family, friends and brethren. But as we are once again reminded of death’s unpleasant intrusion in our lives, we can be strengthened by these words from Paul:
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory… thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:54,57)
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman