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Keith Wishum: At home in the funeral home

Jesus of Nazareth was accused of many things — blasphemy, treason, and fraud to name a few of the minor charges. He was never, however, accused of being dull and lifeless. In his three short years of public life, he always excited passion. He ignited zealot revolutionaries. He fueled raging controversies. He brought joy, excitement, hope and life wherever he went. When Jesus came to town, life was never the same again.
I thought of that recently as I passed an amusing sight. I drove by a building that once housed a funeral home. The sign out front says it’s now home to a church. Now, I know that a building is just a building. And because it has an auditorium already in it, a defunct funeral home makes a logical site for a church looking for a ready-made meeting place.
I couldn’t help chuckling at the irony, though. Here is a group dedicated to bringing earth-shaking, destiny-changing news of the life-giving Jesus to its neighbors. But they meet in a building designed for mourning the dead.
We’ve all known churches, of course, which indeed belonged in a funeral home. I had a lady at one church tell me, “We’re just waiting for everybody to die off so we can close the doors!” It occurred to me that they had already died. They just hadn’t held the funeral yet.
Contrast her attitude to what Jesus called for from his followers. “You are salt, and salt,” he said, “really ought to be salty. Otherwise it’s worthless. And you are light. But a light that doesn’t provide light isn’t really being a light; it needs to shine so folks can see by it” (Matthew 5:13-16 paraphrased).
Jesus made it clear; he came to liven things up — to bring radical change. And he expects his followers to do the same.
I have a prayer for the church in the funeral home. It is that they become so full of life and love and activity that their neighbors fast forget the former use of their building for funerals. May they convert the reputation of that facility. Let it be known, not as a place of mourning but as a place of celebration and new life.
Jesus would like that turn-about. It’s his specialty to bring life from death and to reverse reputations. It’s what he wants to do for us, too.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.