Philippians 1:20-26 Funeral

Philippians 1:20-26

Funeral of Ronald K Scholtz

1.    Text
20  Dit is my vurige verlange, en daarna sien ek uit, dat ek niks sal doen waaroor ek my sal hoef te skaam nie. Ek wil ook nou, soos nog altyd, met alle vrymoedigheid deur my hele wese Christus verheerlik in lewe en in sterwe,

21 want om te lewe, is vir my Christus, en om te sterwe, is vir my wins.

22  As ek in die lewe bly, kan ek voortgaan met vrugbare arbeid. Wat ek moet kies, weet ek nie.

23  Ek is in ‘n tweestryd: ek verlang daarna om heen te gaan en met Christus te wees, want dit is verreweg die beste;

24  maar in julle belang is dit noodsaakliker dat ek bly lewe.

25  Omdat ek hiervan oortuig is, weet ek dat ek sal bly, ja, vir julle almal behoue sal bly, sodat julle kan toeneem in geloof, en blydskap in julle geloof kan hê.

26  As ek weer by julle kom, sal julle oorvloedige rede hê om Christus Jesus oor my te prys. Filippense 1 (AFR1983)

20  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

22  If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!

23  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;

24  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.

25  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,

26  so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Filippense 1 (NIV)

2.    Reflection
2.1. Paul’s Context

Paul writes from Rome in about 61-62 AD, while he was awaiting trial. He was also under house arrest and not allowed to move around freely. He was aware that the outcome of his trial could mean the death penalty.

Every moment of his life was lived before God (Coram Dei), and he had reached the point where he was comfortable with whether he lived or died.

Paul had managed to integrate life and death in such a way that they did not stand in opposition to each other, but instead were complementary. In all of Paul’s existence, in everything he did, he wanted to bring Glory to Christ. His whole existence speaks of integrating life, death and faith.

2.2. Christian tradition

It is a pity that the Christian tradition has been so heavily influenced by the Platonic thinking of the theologian Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). In the centuries following Augustine, what was propagated by the Catholic tradition, and later on by parts of the Reformed tradition, was the dualism of Plato, and this continues to influence the way the Bible is read to this day.[1]

This way of reading causes many people to think in terms of the body and the soul as two separate entities, with the soul being an entity that is separated from who we really are – instead of thinking about life in an integrated way.

2.3.  Death is given together with life

Just as Paul did, however, we can think of death as being part of every moment of our life. Death is given together with life. Death does not appear only at the end of our life.

Death is, in certain circumstances, the most defining aspect of life (A A van Niekerk). Understanding that life, as we know it, will end, puts a frame around life. Whatever understanding we may have of the religious concept of “life after death” should be tempered by the knowledge that it will not be equivalent to what we experience of life while being alive.

Death gives true meaning to the question of what the meaning of life is (A A van Niekerk).[2] It is only in accepting the end of life that we can truly reflect on what the meaning of being alive is.

To some of us, this might seem like a pessimistic view to have. But what it depends on, is how we think about death, on what the relationship is that we have with death as our partner in life. To live an authentic life means to live with the knowledge that death accompanies us.

2.4. Reminder: Death-defying society

We need to be reminded, from time to time, that we live in a death-defying society, one in which we are trying to get rid of death.

The interdisciplinary field of biogerontology, a subdiscipline of gerontology, even speaks about the possibility that, in the future, humans could live to the age of 1000 years.

The 2045 Initiative of the Russian Dmitri Itskov wants to create technologies that would enable us, by the year 2045, to transfer a dying patient’s brain (and personality) to a robot.

2.5. Embracing death rather than defying it

By understanding how death accompanies us in our daily life could inspire us to live life to the full, make better decisions and take responsibility for our life – but also for our death.

Many people do not take responsibility for their life, but there are many more who choose to ignore the idea of taking responsibility (and preparing) for death. For most of us, to think and talk about death is just too much. We often prefer to live a life of denial when it comes to talking and thinking of death. Embracing death as a partner in life seems to be impossible.

Unfortunately, religion is often used to uphold this denial. It can be different. The certainty of death can bring an urgency to live life with passion; to find sense in what we are doing and to pursue every day as another opportunity.

There is a small minority of people who take the responsibility for death to another level. For some it also creates the space in which, for whatever reason, they feel comfortable to end their life themselves.

There is too little respect in society for those who choose to end their life.

2.6. Death helps us to deal with our limitations

Death helps us to understand that the lives that we ourselves, and all others, live have certain limitations. Just as Paul did, we might think about death as not being something that happens only to others (Heidegger calls it an ontic understanding of death). If, when we think about death, we can also think about our own death, then death can be or will be incorporated into our own life.

2.7. Death prepares us to deal with the mysteries of life

We live in a wonderful age where we have the answers to so many questions about life. We understand so many things better than all previous generations. But still there are certain things we don’t understand.

Death also makes us aware of the importance of making our peace with mystery as part of life. In all religions, and for many people who do not have any religious faith, mystery features strongly in discussions about death.

Accepting the mysterious side of life and death creates a wonderful opportunity to find some peace without having all the answers.

2.8. We are not traveling alone – Befriending death as a companion

Facing our own death, or the death of a loved one, puts us in a lonely space. Understanding and accepting that death accompanies all of us on this journey through life may offer us comfort in the event of the death of those who travel alongside us.

Although our understanding that death is not a stranger to us will not take away the sorrow of saying farewell to our loved ones, it may bring us comfort. The comfort lies in understanding that death is not an enemy, but accompanies us in the process of living and dying.

2.9. Fortunately for many, there are also other companions

What also brings us comfort is knowing about and understanding the importance of relationships. For Paul, it was his relationship with the readers of his letter and Christ that gave him a sense of meaning.

It is not my task to reflect on the life of Ronald Scholtz. Many of you have already done so in your eulogies. We all know that Ronald was a person who put a high premium on relationship. His whole life was witness to how important relationships were to him. People and not things made him happy.

I believe that you, as his family and friends, will today also find some comfort in having known Ronald as a person who lived his life to the full; as a person who had strong relationships with many of you and with God.

Amen

 

Frederik B O Nel (5/08/2018)

[1] See Vincent Brümmer’s book: Vroom of Regsinnig? Teologie in die NG Kerk (2013 Bybel-Media).

[2] Die dood en die sin van die lewe. (2017 Tafelberg)

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