Secondly, I want to invite you to share your plans with your family. The obvious reason for that is if you do, your family will understand your wishes, and that’s important. The less obvious reason to talk to your family is that through the discussion, you can witness to your faith to them.
I met with a retired pastor and his son. The pastor had lived his life in service to God. When he retired, he told God that he had no idea what he would do next. God assured him that he would continue to serve, and to start visiting people. So he did – he visits hospitals and nursing homes, he serves in churches when asked. And this is my favorite part – funeral homes call him to do funerals for people who don’t have a pastor, so he does several funerals a month, ministering to those families. He lives his faith.
Part of living his faith, for him, means that he has always tithed. He gives 10% of his income to God. We met with him because he wants to continue that through his death. 20% of his life insurance policy is directed to go to a trust that benefits the mission projects of the Annual Conference. We met with him to review the paperwork for that plan with his son present.
You can tell by the way I talk about him that this pastor has been a witness to me of how to live your faith. I can only imagine the witness he has been to his son, through that conversation and beyond it. Talk to your family about your plans so that they will see God through your actions.
Third, consider using your estate plan as not only a way to plan how your estate will be distributed at your death, but also as a way to testify to your faith. We call it a testament, don’t we? Transform it into something more than a legal document. You can do that in words and in actions.
You can include what is called a Christian Preamble in your will. A preamble is a paragraph that comes before everything else that explains WHY you are doing what you are doing with your will. In it, you can talk about the love you have for your family, for your church, and about how God has worked through your life. A lawyer may not ask if you want to include the reasons for what you are doing, but you can ask to do it. You can go to our website or call our office, and we can provide an example of a Christian Preamble to get you started. If you don’t want to include it in your will, then I encourage you to write a letter to your family and store it with your will. Pass your faith on to them as many ways as you can, and this is one way. Through what you say.
Follow that with your actions. Include the ministry – such as your church - that is close to your heart in your estate plan. There are many ways to do that; a bequest in your will is probably the most common. You and I are stewards of what God has given to us – stewards of the material possessions we have, and caretakers of our family. Your will is the document you use to give final instructions in your role as steward. Most of us use it to provide care for our families. When you include a bequest to ministry, you, through your actions, demonstrate the importance that faith and the church has had in your life. If your church has been like family to you, you may want to demonstrate that through your will.
One final story about a woman I have never met. Dr. Roberta Rice was born in Minnesota in 1917 in the Methodist parsonage. As a young adult, she graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School. When I read that about her, I loved her already – imagine how hard it would have been to be a female medical school student in the late thirties and early forties. As a doctor, she served veterans at various VA Medical Centers. After the Korean War, she was sent to Korea as a United Methodist medical missionary educator, and she serve there from 1956 until 1975 as a surgeon. After that, she joined the faculty of the new medical school at Marshall University. After her retirement, she served as a volunteer with Hospice and as a literacy tutor. She sang in the choir and played the organ at her United Methodist Church her in Huntington and later in North Carolina. She died in 2014, and her obituary said, “Dr. Rice made the world a healthier and happier place.”
I say that Dr. Rice lived her faith. And you should read her will. It was a witness to her faith. It included several bequests to ministry, including to her church and to the Foundation. There is now a Trust at the Foundation in her name that provides funds each year for ministry with children.
While I am not here to provide a commercial, I am here to serve, so if there is any way I can help you as consider how to live your faith, please let me know.
We are commanded by Jesus – commanded, mind you – to not let our hearts be troubled. Set aside fear, and live your faith. Do as Paul did – live your faith all of your life, pour out your life to God, now, and even in the way you meet the end of life here on earth, knowing that, as Paul wrote in his last testament, the Lord stands by you and gives you strength, so that through you the message might be fully proclaimed and everyone might hear it.
And be careful on the stairs.
Labels: Death, Epistles, Faith, Sermon