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Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Message Summary: After the sorrowful "goodbye" on this side we can be assured there will be a joyful "hello" on the other side!
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"Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
There is a hello after goodbye, a blessed reunion, promised in time
We will be with them far longer than we were without
No doubt, no more tears in our eyes
In that beautiful, wonderful, hello after goodbye
Yesterday we attended the funeral service for 88 year old Sam S. Smucker. It was a moving service with his large multi-generational family proceeding into the sanctuary as the service began. Sam had five living children, 16 grandchildren and some 29 great-grandchildren. With the "in-laws" walking alongside their spouses it made for a very large and impressive family group!
We met Sam about five years ago when we began serving the home improvement company he founded in 1960. Sam was already retired but we established a friendship and visited with him in his home when he was not wintering in Florida.
We never had the privilege of meeting Sam's wife, Hannah, who died five years ago. And one son died in his youth many years ago. We have come to know several of his living children, including his two sons, Lee & Marlin, who now manage the company as well as Mary Ann who worked there up to her retirement a few years ago.
Sam and Hannah grew up Amish but made the very difficult decision of parting from the Amish group in the early years of their marriage. Though they were shunned they chose not to be bitter toward the things of God. They taught their children the ways of the Lord. Besides being a successful businessman for over 50 years, Sam was very active in his church and, as a Gideon, he placed Bibles in the hands of those who needed answers to life's greatest questions through the written Word.
We visited Sam several times the weeks before he died. When his time was nearing we made our final visit a week ago Friday, actually expecting that he might go very soon. Brooksyne quoted Isaiah 41:10 as we considered the loving and attentive family members who had been by Sam's bedside 24/7 for a number of days already, "Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Then we joined the family in quoting the 23rd Psalm before praying for Sam as he faced life's greatest physical and spiritual transition. It was a tender setting with all five of Sam's children around his bedside along with his sister, Priscilla, otherwise lovingly known as, "Aunt Cill".
Sam had a strong heart and lived on several days after we visited with him while his family kept vigil. Throughout the time they had music constantly playing in the background as a source of comfort for Sam and likely for all the family members. Each time we visited with Sam in his home he always had the Christian radio station playing.
During his final moments as he lay dying on his hospital bed a hymn was playing that many of you will recognize:
My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Je-sus, ’tis now.
The song continued as Sam was nearing his final breath:
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
As Sam breathed his last the music, which had been on a long playlist, inexplicably stopped. The lyrics could not have been more descriptive of Sam's transition on this side to the next. What a precious gift God gave to his family when this verse ended leaving the room in holy silence.
Is it possible that Sam sung the last verse on the other side:
In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now!
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is often considered the "rapture passage" although the word "rapture" is not used in the text. It describes a glorious future event when all who have placed their faith in Christ will meet in heaven. It ends with the phrase, "Therefore comfort one another with these words."
Paul provided needed assurance for some who felt those who died may have missed this glorious event but he gives clear instruction regarding the fate of both the living and the dead. Today, let us consider just one phrase from the passage: "Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them (those who died in Christ) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord."
This verse is a tremendous source of comfort, assurance and encouragement when we consider the death of a loved one. We who are alive at that time will be caught up together with them in the air. We indeed grieve on this side, a normal response, but we don't grieve as those who have no hope!
"So we (those living at the time and those who have already died) shall always be with the Lord." After the sorrowful "goodbye" on this side we can be assured there will be a joyful "hello" on the other side!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we thank You that we don't grieve as those who have no hope, after our Christian loved ones take up residency in heaven. It's hard, though, because we're unable to converse with them or hug them or even to lovingly help them when they're in need. But we're also reassured they're in safe-keeping, in better surroundings than any of us can imagine on this side of heaven. They're in better physical condition than that of a newborn babe for they've exchanged their decaying perishable body for a perfect, imperishable body that is disease free and ageless. To think of their access to the great apostle Paul or the courageous prophet, Daniel, to sit at the very feet of Jesus, to hear the angel choir filling the heavens with their worshipful hallelujahs. It's more than the human mind can possibly grasp, yet it awaits us when we take our flight to our eternal home. Keep us faithful, hopeful, and full of anticipation for that great and mighty day when we will make that final eternal transition to where our inheritance lies. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen
Tommy Carpenter is a friend from Arkansas whom we became acquainted with through Daily Encouragement about ten years ago. He shares a similar story to today's but with the gospel song, "Victory in Jesus" We shared it several years ago in this message but will post the pertinent illustration from the message here:
Tommy is a veteran minister of the Gospel and missionary. We have been blessed to have him as a guest in our home when he visited the area. Years ago he preached in the little country church where I served for several years as an interim pastor. He told a moving story that we'll share in today's message that he refers to is as "The rest of the story":
Back in the early 1900's singing schools were fairly common in the U.S., having had their origin in American History as early as the 1700's. New systems of music notation, including shape notes, were developed by singing school teachers as an aid in learning to sing by sight without musical instrumentation.
Tommy's Uncle Carl was hosting songwriter Eugene M. Bartlett, the very popular songwriter and leader of a singing school, in his home in rural Arkansas in 1939. One morning Bartlett showed Carl the music and lyrics for a brand new song he had just written.
"I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory…" He then went on to share the entire song that many of us know by heart as "Victory In Jesus". Of course the song has become one of the most beloved hymns of the church and is found in most hymnbooks.
Eugene Bartlett died in 1941, at 55 years of age, just two years after he wrote this song. But his wife, Joan Bartlett, lived many more years, in fact, she renewed the copyright on "Victory in Jesus" in 1967.
When her time of death came the family and preacher gathered around her bedside. They looked on rather helplessly as she was in the final throes of death, her body ravaged and completely unresponsive.
Expecting to see her draw her final breath they were stunned by her sudden arousal as she broke into song:
I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.
O victory in Jesus…
At first her voice was very weak, but as she continued to sing the words became clearer and her voice grew stronger. She then sang the second verse:
I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow'r revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus, Come and heal my broken spirit,"
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.
O victory in Jesus…
Immediately after singing this verse and the chorus she died! The preacher, at a loss for words said, "I reckon she's singing the third verse up yonder."
I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing, and the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of victory.
Sam started SS Smucker, a home improvement company, in 1960. The company is now managed by his sons and grandson but Sam, up till this past June, still kept busy around the business mowing the lawn, picking up trash, etc. He had that old-fashioned work ethic.
We heard a good incidental testimony about him. Brooksyne shared about Sam as his time drew near when she was leading worship in our church. At our men's campout this last weekend Leroy Shonk, a truck driver now in his seventies, told me about meeting Sam when he worked as a driver for a roofing company nearly fifty years ago. He was a driver but must have seen Sam when he picked up materials and recalls how nice he was. Now it's pretty neat when you can be remembered for being nice by someone you only saw several times fifty years later!
Here's Sam with the some of the Smucker family at a surprise retirement party for Sam's daughter, Mary Ann, who had worked there since her youth. Sam's sons, Marlin, (right) and Lee, (second from left) remain active in operating the company along with his grandson Sheldon (far left) who assumed his mother Mary Ann's position. Several other grandchildren also work for the company! The company has a good reputation here in Central Pennsylvania and has a memorable jingle we heard just this morning on WDAC, our local Christian radio station, See here for video (30 seconds)
In recent years Sam dealt with poor eyesight which affected his ability to read his Bible daily as he had been accustomed to. During one visit he was pleased to show us his new reading machine which greatly magnified the words on screen and made it possible for him to read the Scriptures again. Can you identify the Bible verse on the screen?
Ester was touched by the service and wrote this on her Facebook page: "Attending a funeral for Mr. Sam S. Smucker. It was an honor and privilege to getting to know you even though you could never remember my name. You have also left a wonderful legacy for all of us to follow. You have impacted so many different people throughout your life. You will be truly missed by all of us."
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Hello After Goodbye" Video Legacy Five A very touching song. Today we dedicate the song to the Smucker family. May they find great comfort in the anticipation of a future hello, especially knowing there will be no more good-byes.
"My Jesus, I Love Thee" Video Traditional
"Daddy's Hands" Video Holly Dunn At the conclusion of the service yesterday the family had prepared a photo montage with several songs including this one. It sure made me consider my own dad who passed away in 1998 and may prompt a future message as I consider his hardworking hands.
"Knowing What I Know About Heaven" Video Guy Penrod Another song played at the service yesterday. Guy became a solo artist, after leaving the Bill Gaither vocal band, and this song became his signature song on our radio station. I never tire of hearing it!
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