Famous Last Words
As people face the reality of their impending death, words that are said in the last days, and sometimes even in the last breath, come to take on special meaning. These famous last words can be very telling about the priorities, values and life of a person. Take the famous circus showman, PT. Barnum, for instance, who as he died asked, “How were the receipts today in Madison Square Garden?” Or the Mexican revolutionary hero “Poncho” Villa who after experiencing a mental block for something profound finally said, “Don’t let it end this way. Tell them I said something.”
Some of our famous last words turn out to be quite ironic, like those of Union Commander John Sedgewick who was shot and killed mid-sentence during a Civil War battle as he observed, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist-...” In the grips of death gallows humor is not uncommon, like the statement of condemned criminal James French from the electric chair, “Imagine tomorrow’s headlines: French Fries!”
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, tried his best to go out singing as he attempted to stumble through Isaac Watts’ I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath. Not able to finish, Wesley rested and a short while later spoke his last words, “The best of all, God is with us.”
As we journey through Lent I have joined the world-wide church in inviting us all to reflect on where we are in our relationship with Jesus: to consider where are the barriers to growth in Christ and where in our soul is there fertile ground for new growth. As Lent marches on, this self-reflection begins to morph more and more into an extended meditation on the life and teachings of Jesus – and what any of that means to us.
The first week of April 2023, we will turn the corner of Lent towards our commemoration of Holy Week, Jesus’ last days with his disciples are filled with famous last words that are profoundly meaningful to any who seek to follow him today. In this newsletter you will find information about some of the opportunities which are provided for you to spend the final days of Lent just as Jesus spent his final days: by worshiping and teaching and serving.
As Jesus “turned his face towards Jerusalem,” I imagine that his thoughts and actions must have been dominated by the foreshadow of the cross that loomed ahead and the hope of an empty tomb beyond his cross. In this context, Jesus spoke words that can best be heard with a listening ear and understood with a servant’s heart. I pray that in the days we have before us, let us engage our hearts and our hands that our ears might truly hear what Jesus’ famous last words say to us today.