Pastors are always looking for sermon illustrations. See if any of this works for you.
This week, C-Span televised the funeral of South Dakota statesman former Senator George McGovern, who had run for the Presidency in 1972 and lost in a landslide to Richard Nixon.
Whenever there is a funeral of a national leader on C-Span, I try to watch as much of it as I can. The fascinating part is hearing stories from colleagues, some of whom are often well-known in their own right, tales from earlier years, stories that never made it into newspapers.
This funeral was held, I believe, in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church of Sioux Falls. I did not watch the entire service, so my observation is not about this funeral specifically.
Pagan funerals–in our culture–look back; Christian funerals look ahead.
It’s that simple. The pagan service will celebrate all the good the subject did in his life while ignoring any unsavory parts; the Christian service may indeed bring in some of the accomplishments from his lifetime, but mainly looks forward. As the Apostle Paul said, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day–and not to me only, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4).
Something else about George McGovern intrigues me. In World War II, he flew bombers over Germany. He was a full-fledged American hero and thus entitled to all the trappings of macho-ism (machismo?). But the American public never saw any of that bravado from him as a senator, politician, and candidate for the highest office. In fact, he came across as rather nerdish.
And, by a strange coincidence, so did George H. W. Bush (our 41st president). In World War II, he was a fighter pilot who on one occasion had to parachute from his stricken plane. And yet, in one of his campaigns for the presidency, Newsweek magazine ran a cover with his picture and the words: “The Wimp Factor.” (Wimp? The man jumps out of planes to celebrate his 80th birthday? He is anything but a wimp!)
By contrast, when John F. Kennedy was running for the presidency in 1960, his wartime experiences as commander of PT-109 became a big deal. Books were written and even a movie starring Cliff Robertson was (later) made.
Perceptions are often so unreliable. We must learn to look beyond how things appear, to look beneath the thin veneers, and to try to see the realities that lie below.
AN ABORTION QUOTE
Our friend is a woman, a Christian, and a medical doctor. Over dinner the other night, she told my wife and me of a conversation she had with another friend who was stridently pro-choice, which of course is a euphemism for pro-abortion. He was insisting that the only way to go for anyone supporting “women’s rights” is to be pro-choice.