************ Funeral Sermon on Psalm 90:12 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 20, 2012
"Man Comes With an Expiration Date"
Tom Moholt Funeral/Memorial
A lot of the products we buy today have an expiration date. It is important to pay attention to the expiration date when you buy something from the grocery store. For instance, have you ever drank sour milk? Have you ever opened a container of sour cream only to find it covered by a host of wavy green things? Have you ever found mold on cheese? When we go to the grocery store, most of us, I am sure, know to pick the gallon of milk at the back of the refrigerated case – because that is where the new milk is stocked. Yes, it is important to pay attention to expiration dates.
Did you know that people also come with an expiration date? We heard it this morning in our Scripture reading from Psalm 90:
(Ps 90:10) The length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength ...According to the psalmist, we are like the new grass of the morning – though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered (Ps 90:6). And, someday we will all return to dust (Ps 90:3). An expiration date has been stamped on each one of us. By God.
Why are we gathered together today? Because Tom Moholt, a man we knew and loved and deeply cared for, reached his expiration date.
Isn't this a shame? According to Genesis, mankind was created to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Mankind, as created, was never meant to die. Yet, as you all know, the statistics for death are most impressive: so far it stands at one hundred percent; everyone who has ever lived ends up dying. We all come with an expiration date. Even those listed at the start of Genesis who lived for 800 or 900 years came with an expiration date. To us, 800 or 900 years might seem forever. But for God it is like a day that has just gone by, or like a soldier's four-hour watch in the night (Ps 90:4).
The inscription at the top of Psalm 90 says, "A prayer of Moses the man of God." Moses, who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses, who watched an entire generation of Israelites die in the wilderness on account of their disobedience. Moses saw and knew first-hand that we come with an expiration date.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I were eating supper with Tom & Margaret. Margaret had just cooked us one of her delicious fantastic healthy Chinese meals. Tom & I were talking religion and theology and philosophy and law. Tom asked me a couple of questions about the book of Genesis. When suddenly, out of the blue, Tom said to me, "I would like you to do my funeral." Remember that, Margaret? All three of us looked at Tom kind of stunned! Where did that come from, we wondered? Is there something wrong? It was none of that. Tom respected me and I respected him and the four of us were friends.
Do you know what the Psalmist calls this? The Psalmist calls this "a heart of wisdom." Listen, again, to the words of our text:
(Ps 90:12) Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.Those who number their days aright have a heart of wisdom. That is, those who know they someday are going to die have a heart of wisdom. Most children and teens don't have a heart of wisdom. Children and teens don't think about death and don't consider death and death is not even on their horizon – even when they do the dumbest and most foolish of things. Some of you, gathered here this morning, may not have a heart of wisdom either because you never consider the possibility of your own death.
Yes, Tom was in good physical shape – you heard all his accomplishments. Yes, he ate Margaret's healthy cooking. But at the same time Tom knew that this life does not go on forever. Tom knew that his life on this earth was not immortal. Tom knew that he came into this world with an expiration date. Tom had the beginning of wisdom.
You may wonder why a mankind that was created to live forever now comes with an expiration date. The answer is simple and basic according to the psalmist:
(Ps 90:7-8) We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. (8) You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.Man, who has been created to live forever, his life has been cut short because of sin and God's judgment against that sin.
If ever there was a person aware of human sin, it was Tom. He would sound off about the people he had to deal with as a Public Defender and as an attorney in Child Welfare cases. I discovered, more than once, that we were dealing with some of the same people. And, deep down, Tom & I knew that we were no better. You know the old saying: "There but for the grace of God go I." In other words, death is every person's lot because everyone of us is a sinner. When you recognize that, when you recognize your own mortality, when you recognize you have an expiration date, you have the beginning of wisdom.
But there is more to a heart of wisdom. At the end of the Psalm, Moses talks about children and family (Ps 90:16). From here – and elsewhere in Scripture – we know that those with a heart of wisdom have a concern, a love, for family and friends. One of the things I ask when someone dies is about family relationships. I want to know if things were right between the person who died and their loved ones.
Certainly, Tom was wise in this way. Is it fair to say that everyone loved Tom? As far as I know, he had no enemies. But then, it is very hard to be angry with someone who has a wonderful sense of humor and quick wit. It is even harder to stay angry with someone who loves wine, stale donuts, and Cheetos. Tom knew that family and friends were important. That, too, is part of the heart of wisdom.
Shortly after Tom died we received one of those group emails from Margaret. We cried when we saw the subject line: "My Tom." "My Tom." That says it all, doesn't it? That speaks of Margaret's love for Tom. And, Tom's love for Margaret.
A couple of guys in the Cycling Club knew Tom as "Old Tom." This was always said with love and affection. It goes back to a time we were cycling up Yokohl Valley and towards Blue Ridge. Suddenly a big, old Tom turkey came bursting out of the weeds and started running uphill beside Margaret's Tom. Someone asked, "Who will get to the top first?" You know the answer: "Old Tom." Yes, Tom was loved.
I want to mention one last part or component to a heart of wisdom. Moses puts it this way,
(Ps 90:13-14) Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. (14) Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Do you know what this tells us? That those with a heart of wisdom get ready for death. Those with a heart of wisdom get ready for death by praying that God's compassion, grace, and mercy be given to them. Those with a heart of wisdom get ready for death when they do what Jesus and the Apostles say: that is, they repent of their sin and believe in Jesus for their salvation.
We've heard lots of stories about Tom. We have many wonderful memories. But I want each of you to stop thinking about Tom for a moment. Instead, I want you to think about yourself. Do you have a heart of wisdom? Do you know you come with an expiration date? If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, do you live at peace with everyone (Rom 12:18)? And, do you repent of your sin and believe in Jesus?
Do you have a heart of wisdom?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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