Ray Haverfield - April 2020

Have you ever stared DEATH in the face?

It is a life changing experience. I guarantee no one will go through a near miss with deadly disease or accident that resulted in serious injury without making some changes. We hide from death. Our Western world is so good at pretending that death will never happen. The funeral home has a neat niche in the back wall where, to some suitable piped music, the rather beautifully made polished pseudo-mahogany coffin disappears slowly on smooth runners for the last time. 

To people in Borneo where we worked as missionaries, death was ever present. Many children died very young. It was heart rending experience to visit people in a village after a child died. The rough box they would make and sit around for a day.. weeping over. Malaria was rampant and caused many deaths. Spirits constantly threatened death to people who broke taboos. Culture changed after mass conversion to Christianity as they no longer needed to drink themselves to oblivion after every death in the village. In some places they were drunk 300 days a year. Fear of death reached the point of threatening the very existence of the people. With Christ as their protector they knew what happened to those who died. They gave up alcohol. Funeral services took place before people died when that was possible. It became a time of celebration of life of old and sick at going to be with the Lord. How different to us; the old person was alive and rejoicing with the rest. It was a wonderful cultural adaptation of funeral services. Death could be faced.. where oh death is your sting? 1 Cor 15:55

Facing death is really hard to do in vacuum. People die all around us in vast numbers.. Corona Virus death toll notwithstanding.. 430 die every day in Australia. We hope and pray this will not increase. 

Yet people avoid the serious questions of death unless it comes very close to them. God just punctured the vacuum. I wonder what people will do? Some will replace the vacuum.. "put your fingers in your ears and sing ting-a-ling-a-loo!!" Some will be forced to consider DEATH perhaps even premature death for the first time. 

Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life… whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? John 11:25,26 

And this is part 2. I am very thankful to have the Lord's Supper at this time. 

I thought my experience in the midst of cancer might be encouragement to someone. 

Be Thankful for Jesus' death and resurrection on our behalf

At the last supper the disciple were grief stricken when Jesus told them he was going away. 

As you read through John’s Gospel, Jesus over and over says, Do not be troubled… Your grief will turn to joy… I am going away to prepare a place for you. Even in this world the exchange for Jesus going away is the Holy Spirit coming and that is going to bring a whole new deeper relationship to God, superior even to Jesus being physically present with the disciples. Hard to imagine losing Jesus is going to bring about something greater than those first disciples could experience as they rub shoulders with Jesus during his earthly life. The promises of the New Covenant in Christ's blood are so much greater, that Jesus can say this is to their benefit. The Holy Spirit is the first fruits of the Kingdom of God in our midst with its promise of fulfilment after death in heavenly glory. 

These things matter more when you stare death in the face. 

The Lord’s Supper points to that exchange of Jesus’ life for his followers and the new covenant that gives us forgiveness and grace. 

When my cancer pain was at its worst.. or the chemotherapy and radiation treatment which are even worse, partaking of the Lord’s Supper was a tremendously uplifting experience. (The grape juice would burn my mouth.. all the fun of chemotherapy) I could not sit still during the service. Sermons I would have appreciated in the past went over my head. I could not concentrate my mind. Words just did not penetrate. Since Jesus left his church on earth his physical absence has been filled by the Holy Spirit but to help us Jesus gave a sign and symbol of his real presence by the repeated physical actions of breaking the bread and eating, of pouring and drinking the cup. Those simple physical elements of the Lord supper link us to Jesus himself. By the very simple faith to believe in Jesus I was ministered to with the promises of the gospel. I am taken to the cross on which I also died, to the Christ who today lives out his life in us. Gal 2:20 The Cross I am to take up daily, Luke 9:23 as grace rids me of attachment to this world. He gives more Grace as we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as His people, For God is slowly levering all those worldly attachments from me. I can no longer be a friend to this world. 

Many of you may grieve today the lack of family around you. Fear and anxiety assault us. Health, job, business, livelihood, friends, family, loved ones.. The sudden onset of this virus and its dramatic effects to avoid millions of deaths will still see our faith in God tested to the very core.  take heart. Jesus has overcome the world. In the end we will be with him physically in heaven. I deeply appreciate the Elders of the Church allowing us to share the Lord’s Supper together in this unconventional way.