The late Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga has received the kind of dignified sendoff we would have wished for ourselves and for our loved ones.
Most important, especially for the dead person, would be the invocation of God’s mercy: “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen.” Its acronym, RIP, is used at tombstones.
It is helpful to internalise the implications of this invocation. Genesis 2:2, gives us a clue. “God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” We see in this a restful, peaceful, sovereign God who has a rest and a peace and a place of joy where the entire creation can enjoy fellowship with him. It is called a “Sabbath rest”.
In reality, the rest lasts forever, and only our unbelieving rebellion would exclude us from it.
Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, discuss another dimension of God’s rest, where reference is made to the Israelites wandering in the desert. In giving them the land of Canaan, God had promised them that He would go before them and defeat all their enemies in order that they could live securely (Deuteronomy 12:9–10).
All that was required of them was to fully trust in Him and His promises. However, they, instead, murmured against Him, even yearning to go back to their bondage under the Egyptians (Exodus 16:3). So many of them missed out on God’s promise for a rest.
Harden not your hearts
Although Joshua gave some relief to the Israelites in the Promised Land, God spoke of another rest to come centuries later. In Psalm 95:11, King David said that God is still holding out to his people an offer of salvation rest. In other words, if we do not harden our hearts, we will enjoy that kind of rest (Hebrews 3:11; 4:3).
God’s intent for giving the Sabbath to Israel was not so much in remembrance of creation, but of God’s deliverance from their Egyptian slavery. Yet, with the new Passover, introduced by Jesus’ sacrificial death and ratified by his resurrection, the Jewish Sabbath was abolished (Colossians 2:14).
Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, Sunday. Whenever he appeared in his resurrected form, it was always Sunday (Matthew 28:1, 9, 10). Sunday, the Lord’s Day, celebrates the redeemed creation, with Christ as our resurrected Head (Revelation 1:10).
“Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” says Jesus in Matthew 11:28.
He reveals God’s plan for his people to join him in the wonderful restfulness of heaven where all weariness, burdensomeness, suffering, and death will be history.
Our hearts rest in God
Christian life is a life of day-by-day trust in the promises of God to help us and guide us and take care of us and forgive us and bring us into a future of holiness and joy. It is a future that will satisfy our hearts infinitely more than if we forsake him and put our trust in ourselves or in the promises of this world. Saint Augustine writes in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
Faith in Jesus makes us fearless before the threats of men and death (Hebrews 4:16, 10:34).
“These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
So, normal Christian life abides in enduring faith in Christ. We pray for that kind of faith, and endeavour to help one another to keep it until the end of earthly life (Ephesians 2:8–9). May the souls of the faithful departed, rest in eternal peace. Amen.
Power in prayer
Fix your eyes on the One who never changes instead of your ever-changing circumstances. In the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel, Hannah turned her sorrow at infertility over to God and left the altar at peace, even though her prayers had not yet been answered. Prayer can do the same for us.