How Will Your Epitaph Read?

(17 11 29 Tom Holmes)

If you have ever walked through a cemetery, you have probably noticed that some headstones carry a little more than just names and dates. Well, here is a short list of a few more memorable epitaphs.

The grave of Quick Draw McGraw (I didn’t know he was a real person) is marked by these words,” He had the 2nd fastest draw.  Only bettered by Slow Draw Shaw.”

You have probably never heard of George Johnson.  It seems the only memorable thing about him is his grave marker.  It stands in Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona, a very tall headstone on which is etched this confession, “Here Lies George Johnson, Hanged by Mistake.  1882.  He was right.  We was wrong.  But we strung him up and now he’s gone.”

The tombstone in Colma, California of a famous character from the wild west, Wyatt Earp, has these words of wisdom, “Nothing’s So Sacred As Honor – And – Nothing’s So Loyal As Love.”

This last epitaph isn’t one of a cowboy but, when I came across it, I just couldn’t resist.  Leonard Matlovich, a Purple Heart-decorated member of the U.S. Air Force, buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. used these words to mark his grave, “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

What would you, as an individual and we, as a community of faith like as an epitaph?  The thought that came to my mind, and I am not sure why, was, “I think I was here, but you better ask just to make sure.”

In our reading from Deuteronomy 34: 1–12, are found words that certainly could act as an epitaph for Moses.  They read something like this, “Moses, when he was 120 years old.  20/20 vision and strong as a horse.  Sent by God.  Worker of miraculous signs and terrifying acts in the land of Egypt and in the sight of all Israel.  Uniquely, a prophet.  Known by God face to face.”

Last week we talked about how God hid Moses as God passed by so that Moses would not be able to look at God’s face, that is God’s essence, because he would die.  Why? Because humans are finite or limited beings.  God, on the other hand, is not.  For a human to gaze into the essence of an eternal being would be far more than our minds or bodies could handle.  But, God did allow Moses to see God’s back, that is God’s character, God’s goodness, what is left behind by God.  But here it talks about a face to face relationship.  Is that a contradiction?

For forty years Moses learned of the Egyptians by living in the royal court and he learned of the Hebrews through his mother.  For forty years he learned to be a shepherd of people by shepherding sheep.  For forty years, he learned of God through both the everyday experiences and the extraordinary ones.

For forty years, Moses would meet with God in the Tent of Meeting.  For forty years he learned of God’s heart and by way of contrast, his own.  For forty years, the relationship between God and Moses grew.  Moses, like all other human beings, would still not be able to see the magnitude of God but he did come to see the heart of God.

How about your relationship with God?  Has it grown over the years?  Have you, have we learned to be truly dependent upon God’s provision?  Have we learned to be trusting of God?  Have we learned to obey – to do as God asks even when it seems to us the details of God’s instructions are lacking?

We, too, are on a journey.  We too are in a wilderness.  We too, are dependent upon God’s daily provision and upon God’s instructions.

Are we like Moses, meeting with God daily, stepping out in faith when God gives the command or are we like the Hebrew people who didn’t want to get too close to God because they were afraid, so they appointed Moses as their representative?

Sometime during the last couple of weeks, I read these words, “Those who fear [reverence] God, never have to be afraid [terrified] of God.”  These are good words – good words to remember, good words to live by.

I ask us again, how will your epitaph read?

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