Memorial Day, observed this year on Monday, May 27th, means many things to many people. Though many schools are already out for the year, for those still in school it is a holiday. For most companies and government offices it is one of 10 federal holidays. But, its purpose is not to just be a holiday, nor the official start of summer. Memorial Day is to be a day of remembrance. Our freedom cost many, many soldiers the ultimate price. For their sacrifice in laying down their lives we stop and remember and reflect on this whole notion of freedom and all that encompasses. This observance was originally called Decoration Day when Americans of all walks of life would go to the cemeteries after the Civil War (most war dead are buried in the south) and decorate the graves of the fallen, both Union and Confederate. Eventually the notion of remembrance would include all fallen soldiers of all wars. Memorial Day as we know it was not an official holiday until 1971. Nothing, it seems, is quite as sobering as thinking about death or attending a funeral. That may be why many Americans let this day of remembrance become a festive day with little thought of its purpose. This year I want to ask you to consider a lesson we can all learn from this type of remembrance.

I have conducted many funerals and attended plenty more. Funerals are awkward in the sense of balancing the celebration of a life while at the same time dealing with immense grief and loss. This can be overwhelming. Our way of dealing with this many times includes saying and believing some really far fetched things. I could write a book of the dumb things I have said trying to console those who are bereaved. I could write a larger book based on outlandish things other people have said. I will not go into great detail about some of these things other than to say that when a golfing friend dies he is not now playing golf with Jesus in heaven, or when a jokester dies he is not now doing a stand up routine before God’s throne, or a drinker is now throwing back some cold ones with his drinking buddies by the pearly gates. You get the idea. I do not usually correct anyone who is saying any of these silly things. People process grief in different ways. What I will do, though, is offer some correction on a common misunderstanding of scripture that I hear frequently from ministers because it is, well, silly.

The last 5 funerals I have attended each minister would always read, and sometimes use as their text, John 14:1-2 that reads;

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

Then this well meaning, but perhaps scripturally shallow, person expounds in great detail about Jesus laboring in heaven building mansions for all the believers. I sat under one pastor who enthusiastically stopped during a sermon and said, “Listen, I can hear that hammer the carpenter from Nazareth is using right now building your mansion.” I kid you not. I get it. It is a comfort to consider heaven in such a way. But, it is just wrong. And perhaps it is a ploy by the enemy to deflect us. The Greek word for the English translation “Mansion” is the word MONE. It does not mean a room, a house, or a large house. That is something of a western civilization notion. Rather it means a place of belonging or position. What Jesus was saying in this verse is incredible. He was saying that in God’s Kingdom there is a place and a role for everyone. Jesus was getting out of the way (via the cross) so we could continue to do what He did. The God who framed the world in 6 days does not need 2000 years to build little houses for believers in heaven. I will give you something to ponder this Memorial Day season. The one who died for your eternal freedom loves you with an everlasting love. He has a plan for you that is unique to you. It is proper to remember the ones who have laid down their lives for our earthly freedom. How much more should we remember the ultimate death (and resurrection) and what that means to us both now and forever more. Jesus died for you and has prepared a place for you. What is your place? Are you getting in on what He has planned for you? Jesus talked about hell 10 times more than heaven in scripture. Heaven is beyond what we can even think or conceive. It is a whole lot more than sitting around in a mansion and doing .  .  . whatever. What ever heaven is like and what ever rewards there will be we can at least say, based on scripture, that they are predicated to some extent on how we fulfilled our destiny as we allowed Jesus to live through us. Get it? Get in on it!