Traveling on the roads outside Branson, Missouri today, I noticed a church sign that said, “We Help You Prepare for Your Finals!”  I just laughed out loud as I usually do at clever church signs and this was one of them.  Obviously not referring to high school or college final exams.  But to our final day in this crazy world.  The longer I’m in this life , the more I long for the time- without- end,which is God’s Kingdom.  You too?  But what about  those last months and weeks and days and hours of life…what will they be like?  Not something we think much about, but a reality nevertheless.  What will it be like? I remember in seminary at Princeton that a speaker we had was Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who had written a best-selling book entitled On Death and Dying.  She created quite a stir with her 5 psychological  steps involved in the grieving and dying  process at the end of life.  Dr. Kubler-Ross said that most people who do not die immediately go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Five stages.  Sometimes they are reversed, some people revisit stages before moving on to the next one.  Her book really caught our attention.  As I look back now on my youthful, pastoral enthusiasm trying to help people go through these critical stages, I realize that the most important stage of all is just plain not there, missing completely.  And that is the rescue stage.  Yes, where death doesn’t have the final word, where death loses its sting over us .  As St. Paul wrote, ‘What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?'(Romans 7:4).  He’s wondering where the rescue stage is?  That which follows death, the end of my earthly breaths.  Who will rescue me, he asks.  And who will rescue me and you?  Verse 25 trumpets the wonderful announcement of our Rescuer–‘Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ Say it again!   I remember Dr. Kubler-Ross as a very soft-spoken, well-educated, articulate Swiss woman… who never mentioned God or any faith in Him.  Nothing.  Moving from denial to acceptance felt so empty without someone there to rescue us as if we were falling off a cliff never finding bottom except for a  rather harsh landing indeed.  Nothing.  Empty.  Unsatisfying.  Not the whole story–the last chapter ripped out never knowing what might have happened, what could have happened…to us.  Preparing for your finals?  Don’t worry!  Jesus has already taken the test for us.  He has defeated death.  He has died for us and all of our sins.  All of them. Yes, every last one of them.   Isn’t that just amazing?  A rescue like we could never imagine at all.  Jesus is our Rescuer, He took center stage on the cross to rescue us from death’s icy cold grip and to liberate us to enjoy ‘the glorious freedom of the children of God’ (Romans 8: 21).  The finals?  Jesus took them for us and Jesus never fails. Never!   ‘Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7: 25).

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