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Gravestone Epitaphs

by Pastor Ralph J. Mineo

When Jesus called people to be disciples, the call included sacrificial love, denial of self, rejecting human impulses to sin, rejecting human impulses to find the easy way out of serving and sacrificing for the sake of God’s Reign. Jesus called people to “love one another as I have loved you.” Remembering that he died for us, those are the most challenging words we can hear! They are also words of the most loving way we can live.

Though somewhat rare in today’s world, I’ve always been interested in tombstone epitaphs. A few “disciple” favorites are: “Life is eternal. Death is merely a change of conditions.” “I hate to leave you all behind, but we’ll meet again one day.” “Parted by death, we’ll be reunited in Heaven.” “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (from Psalm 23) (A couple of humorous ones I like are: “I told you I was sick.” and “That’s all I have to say.” But I digress!)

My point is: WHO among us would want an epitaph that reads: “He only took care of himself?” “She only took care of herself?” I think none of us! Jesus is calling each one of us to care for others, to love others. The late Leonard Nimoy (“Spock” of Star Trek fame) once wrote: “The miracle is this: the more we share, the more we have.” He got that right. That’s the way God has created us to live our lives. Jesus calling us to serve, in response to his sacrifice, death on the Cross. The miracle is that, as we respond, we receive “abundant life.”

A disciple of Jesus never forgets what Jesus did for us. That sacrifice is central to our mindset. There’s a scene in the movie about Vincent de Paul (the 17th century French priest whose primary mission was to serve the poor). A child had become orphaned, and Vincent brought the infant to a woman with the most children in the town. Frustrated, wanting to refuse, she said, “Perhaps the child must die for the sins of its parents.” Vincent replied, “When God wanted someone to die for the sins of others, God sent his Son.” The woman, answering the call to respond to the sacrifice of Jesus, took the infant as her own.

The mindset of the disciple is to sacrifice, serve, love as a RESPONSE and THANKS for what Jesus did for us. We do this by never losing sight of the goal: heaven — eternal life — life forever with God.

So, what would your epitaph be? Think about it. Think about it as a disciple of Jesus.

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