Sunday, 26 February 2012

on Giving (1): the joy of giving

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Forgive me! For the next three weeks in both our churches we are going to be looking at giving.

I am very conscious that I do not wish us to become churches that are always talking about giving and money. And if you have recently joined us, or started coming along, I promise you that we rarely speak about giving. You've just happened to come along at the wrong moment!

The reason I don't like talking about money is that people often think that the church is only after your money. Well, yes the church is after your money - but actually more seriously, the church really is after your life!

I'm also conscious that I am speaking about giving in the context of a serious recession. There are several members of our congregations who are currently unemployed. Salaries are being held back. Pensions have been squeezed. And most of us have had to tighten our belt and to cut back.

But it is about three years since we last seriously spoke about giving: and we need to do so. Not least because if we call Jesus, 'Lord', then he is also Lord of our money and of our giving.

We're looking this morning at 2 Corinthians 8.

One of the reasons that Paul wrote this letter is to do with money. There has been a famine in Jerusalem. Many of the Jewish believers are suffering significantly. The church in Corinth has made a pledge: 'we will raise money for the believers in Jerusalem' (we read about that in 1 Corinthians 16:1). Meanwhile neighbouring churches in Macedonia have also pledged to raise money. Paul is now sending Titus, and two others, to go round these churches in order to help with the collection and to bring the money back to Jerusalem. And so Paul writes this letter, either to send ahead of Titus, or for Titus to take with him when he goes.

And Paul begins by telling the Christians in Corinth about the astonishing generosity of the churches in Macedonia. They too were made up of people who were struggling. In fact the situation for them was worse than for the people in Corinth.

And Paul writes a strange thing: 'Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity' (2 Corinthians 8:2)
Their joy in Christ was not diminished because of their suffering, and their generosity was not reduced because of their poverty. They gave as much as they were able, if not more.

These were believers who, even though they were suffering, and even though they were poor, had discovered the joy of giving

And that is the starting point.
Paul does not start with tithing. I could say that the norm of giving in the New Testament is a tithe: that people should give a tithe, one tenth, of what they receive to the work of the Lord whether that is here or in the diocese or overseas.

Jesus said to the Pharisees on one occasion, 'You tithe so much that you even give a tenth of your spices (we're talking tithing your spice cabinet - cinammon, five spice, curry powder), but you neglect the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practised the latter without neglecting the former'. (Matthew 23:23).

In view of what I am about to say, it would in fact be much easier for me to say, 'As a Christian you ought to be tithing - or at least making tithing a target for your giving'.

But Paul does not say that here. In fact, while in the Old Testament tithing was a requirement for a Jewish believer, Jesus only mentions tithing twice. Once in the incident we've just mentioned, and once when he tells the story of the tax collector and the Pharisee. The Pharisee is boasting about what a spiritual person he is: 'I tithe' he says. But because of his attitude, and the way he looks down on other people, God refuses to listen to him.

Tithing is part of the Old Testament law; and as such it is a great guideline for our giving, especially for our thinking about how much we might give to the church for the work of the ministry. It is something that Alison and myself try to do. It is something that many people in our churches try to do. But we have no authority whatsoever for building a theology of giving on the requirement to tithe.

And it is significant that Paul does not mention tithing here or, for that matter, anywhere else.

Instead Paul appeals to something quite different:

He appeals to the reality of their Christian faith.

Paul is writing to people who have come to know the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are people in whom the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ lives. They know the grace of God, and they are beginning to be transformed by the grace of God.

So Paul writes (v7), 'you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in love'. And he says to them, 'Excel also in the grace of giving'. In other words, live up to the Spirit who God has put in you.

And he reminds them that the Spirit of God had given them a deep desire to give, just as the Spirit had given the believers in Macedonia a desire to give. So he says, (v10), 'a year ago you started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it'. Fascinating. Many of us give but we give reluctantly. We do not necessarily desire to give.

The very heart of God is generous love. God loves to give, God desires to give and God gives.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Everything that we have is gift. Life, each other, our possessions, our gifts and abilities. We did nothing to merit birth; we did nothing to merit that we should be born at this particular time in history, in this particular place. We did nothing to merit any of the good things in life: love, joy, happiness, creativity, laughter or beauty.

And while we may not have done anything to merit birth or life, we certainly have done quite a bit to deserve death. We have rejected God. We live as if there is no God, no ultimate accountability. We have lived as if I am god. We have taken the good gifts that he has given us, we have treated them as if they are ours by right, as if we somehow deserve them, and we try to hold on to them.

And because we are fallen people, we do not naturally give. I'm not talking about the money that we might give to members of our family, to the people we love, to the people who might help us out when we're in a bad way; I'm not talking about the £1 or £5 or maybe £10, £20 or even £50 that we might occasionally give - because we feel bad, or because we would feel shamed if we did not, or because the issue has personally affected us, or because we want our name up in lights: 'The Rogers wing'.

If we do give, in most cases it is because we have some sort of self-interest in giving; or because we have to - and we'll do whatever we can to wriggle out of it (I guess you could include taxes in that), or we give because there is an emotional gun pointed at our head.

But we do not naturally give. For instance, most of us would sell a bigger home for a smaller home for financial reasons, or because our current home is too large for us. But most of us would really struggle to voluntarily sell a larger home for a smaller home in a worse part of town in order to be able to give - even though it means that, as far as the world is concerned, we will have a lower, less comfortable standard of living.

And I am going to say something that is very controversial, but I am concerned in the current economic climate when it is Christians who are in the forefront of people going on strike to protect their pension or their salary - particularly if they are relatively well paid. I know that many of you are involved because you are concerned about the integrity of your profession and that is important, but we have to remember that it is not all about me keeping my current standard of living.

Naturally, we try to hold on to that which we have.

But that is not the way of God. It is not the way of Jesus, and it is not the way of the Holy Spirit who lives inside the believer. "Self-giving love", as someone said, "is the signature of the Trinity."

God gave his son: 'For God so loved the world that he gave'.
In his great love for us, God not only gives us life and love, he also gives us his very self. He sends his son Jesus into our world to live among us.
And Jesus gave up heaven in order to come and live on earth. He gave up 'sapphire paved courts for stable floor', in the words of the hymn that we are about to sing.

And he was willing to suffer and to die - not because he had to, not out of guilt, not for people who could do anything for him, not even for friends - but so that we, who had rejected him, might be forgiven, and so that we might begin to know God, and so that God himself might come and live within us.

It really is all gift: life, love, forgiveness, stuff, his steadfast promises, fellowship and friendship, hope, joy, peace, purpose, eternal destiny, the kingdom of God: and as we begin to realise the astonishing grace of God - the way that he has lavished blessing upon blessing on us and as we begin to realise that it is all gift, and to receive that gift, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit of God - so we really are set free to give.

And that is why when Jesus brought salvation to Zacchaeus, he did not have to command Zacchaeus to give - Zacchaeus freely gave away half his goods to the poor (Luke 19:8)
It is why Jesus does not command those who follow him to give; he simply says, 'When you give'(Matthew 6:2)
It is why the early Christians did literally sell their property so that they could give to the poor and to the work of the ministry (Acts 4:34f)
It is why the Macedonian Christians did have a desire to give, even in a situation of great hardship
It is why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver".

And it is why many of us do have a desire to give - to give not because we have to, not out of a sense that it is what we 'ought' to do, not out of guilt - but out of a simple gospel passion, and out of Holy Spirit inspiration. And we are beginning to want to give so that others - completely unknown to us - may not only have material possessions but - far more importantly - may have the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ, about forgiveness and about eternal life. Because, as Paul puts it, if people do not hear, they cannot believe.

The greatest act of love that you can do for any man, woman or child, is to sacrifice yourself, and sacrifice what we have, so that they have a greater chance of hearing about the love that God has for them.

That is why Paul does not talk about tithing. If you are speaking to Christian believers you do not need to tell them to tithe. They will want to give, far more than a tithe.

For some people, even though they really want to give, a tithe is too much (particularly if they are in debt). For others a tithe is nothing: someone with £1m who gives £100k. It is a cop out. They still have £900k left. They could easily afford to give so much more, but it would mean a change in lifestyle. That is why Paul says in verse 12, 'For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have'. When you have an abundance in comparison to others you give of that abundance abundantly.

And that is why Paul reminds the Corinthians of the example of the Macedonian Christians. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then they gave to Paul and his collection.

And although we are talking about giving, and financial giving to the church - today I am not going to talk about the financial situation of the parish or of the diocese here. I'm not today going to suggest reasons why we should give - but I wish to simply focus on the fact that if you are a believer, if the Spirit of God lives in you, and if you are being guided by the Spirit, then the desire to give will be there - and you will want to give.

And if you do not have that desire to give, or if when the plate comes round you give simply because you feel you ought to, then could I take the radical step of suggesting that you do not give, at least to the work of the ministry of the church. God won't love you any the less, and you will feel much happier about it.

I like the story that is told of the mother who wanted her daughter to learn about giving, and so gave her a 20p and £1. She said, 'You can put either into the collection and keep the other'. As they were going home, mum asked her which she had put in. She said, 'Well at first I thought I would put in the £1, but then the preacher said that God loved a cheerful giver, and I thought I would be much more cheerful if I had the £1. So I put in the 20p'.

But the astonishing thing is that if you do decide not to give, and you then realise that God still loves you, and that you are absolutely welcome here, you might begin to realise a little of what grace actually means. And you might discover that what you really desire to do is to surrender to this God of love, this God of grace. He really does want your life.

And if you do desire to give, then all I will say today is what Paul said to the Corinthian Christians: 'Be wise. We do not wish to see you overburdened. But don't let things come in that stop you from doing what you really want to do, from what you were made to do. Don't let forgetfulness, or laziness, or procrastination, or fear or spiritual drowsiness get in the way. Go home, even today, and write that cheque or set up that standing order or put that cash in the envelope and give it. Do it.

A man called Richard Stearns writes, "In 1987, the largest, single-day stock market crash since 1929 took place. In one day [my wife, Renee] and I lost more than one-third of our life's savings and the money we had put aside for our kids' university education. I was horrified and became like a man obsessed, each night working past midnight, analysing on spreadsheets all that we had lost, and the next day calling in orders to sell our remaining stocks and mutual funds to prevent further losses. (Of course that turned out to be the absolute worst thing I could have done.)

I was consumed with anguish over our lost money—and it showed. One night when I was burning the midnight oil, Renee came and sat beside me. "Honey," she said, "this thing is consuming you in an unhealthy way. It's only money. We have our marriage, our health, our friends, our children, and a good income—so much to be thankful for. You need to let go of this and trust God." Don't you hate it when someone crashes your pity party? I didn't want to let go of it. I told her I felt responsible for our family and that she didn't understand. It was my job to worry about things like this.

She suggested we pray about it—something that hadn't occurred to me—so we did. At the end of the prayer, to my bewilderment, Renee said, "Now I think we need to get out the chequebook and write some big cheques to our church and ministries we support. We need to show God that we know this is his money and not ours." I was flabbergasted at the audacity of this suggestion, but in my heart I knew she was right. So that night we wrote some sizeable chequess, put them in envelopes addressed to various ministries, and sealed them. And that's when I felt the wave of relief. We had broken the spell that money had cast over me. It freed me from the worries that had consumed me. I actually felt reckless and giddy—"God, please catch us, because we just took a crazy leap of faith."

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A reflection for Lent

Lent is that time when we prepare to remember again the events of the first Good Friday and Easter.

It is also often associated with self-denial.

The passage usually read on this first Sunday of Lent is the story about the temptations of Jesus: how he went into the wilderness, and fasted for 40 days. He denied himself.
And at the end of Lent, on Maundy Thursday night, we remember how Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane that he might escape the cross. But he ended his prayer, 'But not what I will, what you will'.

And Jesus said, 'If anyone would follow me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me' (Mark 8:34)

Of course, self denial is not exclusive to Christianity

The bride on a diet will deny the emptiness in her stomach and the craving for food in order to squeeze into that wedding dress
The athlete will deny the screams of agony from their muscles in order to get their body into as good a shape as possible for the race
The soldier about to go to Afghanistan will deny themselves all kinds of comfort in order to train. They know that their life and the lives of their comrades depends on them knowing what they need to do.

To deny ourself is to choose to take the hard road for the sake of a greater gain.

But there is a false kind of Christian self-denial. It is the sort of attitude which says, 'I am going to deny myself now so that, in the future, I will be bigger'.

This is the kind of self-denial when we screw ourselves up and say, "I'm going to fast; I'm going to give up stuff; I'm going to mortify the body; I'm going to spend more time in prayer; I'm going to make more effort to get to church, in order to make myself more worthy, more acceptable God, and to prove myself to myself, to other believers, to God, and to become more spiritually powerful and significant."

There is a real danger with that.
It often leads to exhaustion and burn out. Instead of becoming more loving, we become more crabby and angry.
We often fail, and that leads to a sense of crushing worthlessness
If we succeed, it leads to pride. We become hard. Either we end up saying, 'I did it, and therefore I deserve my reward' (in other words, 'what is mine is mine by right'), or we end up saying of others, 'I did it. Why can't they?' And we become judgemental; we look down on other people from our lofty moral mountain.

The desert fathers used to say that if you fast from food, you must break your fast on one or two occasions. Otherwise it leads to pride. And Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his time who, he said, fasted in order that other people would say, 'What wonderfully spiritual people they are'.

That is not the sort of self-denial that Jesus is asking for. He is asking not asking us to deny ourselves so that we become bigger. That is not really self-denial. Instead he is asking us to deny ourselves so that we become smaller and HE becomes bigger.

The temptation that we face, day in and day out, is the temptation to believe that we are gods and that we can somehow save ourselves. And Christian self-denial is about denying ourselves in order to make us realise that we are not god, that all things come from him, that we cannot save ourselves and that we are dependent on God for everything.

And so we abstain from food in order to make ourselves weaker, and to realise that our dependence, our life comes from God alone.

The words of Panis Angelicus, which you have just sung, are helpful here:

Heavenly bread
That becomes the bread for all mankind; [Jesus said, 'I am the bread of life']
Bread from the angelic host
That is the end of all imaginings; [all our hopes and dreams meet their fulfilment in him]
Oh, miraculous thing!
This body of God will nourish
Even the poorest, the most humble of servants.

We fast from food in order to discover again that although our physical bodies need physical food, our real life, the life that ultimately matters, is not dependent on material food. For real life, at the deepest level of our existence, we need God, and we need the word of God.

Jesus, after he had fasted for 40 days, was 'hungry'. It is one of the great understatements of the Bible. But when tempted to produce bread from rock, he was able to say to Satan, 'Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God' (Matthew 4:4)

We fast from alcohol or from sexual intimacy or from chocolate in order to remember that these are not ours by right but God given gifts to us. And they are not here to rule or control us. Life is not ultimately about alcohol or sex, or even - and I realise this is controversial - about chocolate. We can actually live without them. And God has given very clear guidelines about how we should use the gift of sex and the gift of alcohol. There probably should also be guidelines about how to use the gift of chocolate or the game of angry birds or football manager. And if our fasting does not lead us to having a greater recognition that they are gifts from God - not a right - and if it does not lead us to a greater thankfulness, and to use those gifts in a way which honours God, then it is fasting in vain.

Or we can fast from the television, in order for a while to turn off from the voice of the world, which is always telling us how we can become more significant people by becoming more successful, more capable, richer, more beautiful and more powerful. It is a voice which is not true and it ultimately leads to the pit. Prayer of a teenage girl, written on a prayer wall - and you can hear the desperate plea in this - 'God make me beautiful'.
And so instead we can open our bibles and we begin to hear another voice which tells us that we are sinners who are powerless to prove anything, but that we are also deeply and profoundly beloved by God, that he has a purpose for us and a destiny for us - even if, in this world, we are to be considered scum.

John Chryssavgis, 'In the Heart of the Desert' writes of the message of the Desert fathers and mothers, "Their suggestion is not so much: “I’m OK and you’re OK.” On a much deeper level, it is their awareness and admission that: “I’m not OK; and you’re not OK.” Yet, this recognition is also their reassurance; for, they know that: “That’s OK!”

And we get up earlier to pray not in order to prove to ourself or to others how spiritual we are, but because we are beginning to realise just how much we really need God. I read an interview with the Bishop of London in which he was asked about his prayer life. He answered, 'I get up at 5:30, say the morning office for half an hour and then spend a further hour in prayer'. And he went on, 'I have discovered that I cannot survive without that time with God'.

Lent begins with Jesus' fasting in the wilderness. It ends with him being crucified on the cross.

And true Christian self-denial will lead us to the cross. It will lead me to that point where I know that I cannot rely on myself, but that I can only put my trust in Jesus, crucified for me. I end up rejecting my own abilities, my own strength, my own good inclinations, my own spiritual endeavours, my own understanding, my own love or lack of love. Instead I put my trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 'who loved me and gave himself for me'.

It is that deep spirituality which resounds through many of the words of those pieces of music that we have heard this evening:

Ave Verum Corpus
Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary,
who having truly suffered,
was sacrificed on the cross for mankind,
whose pierced side flowed with water and blood:
May it be for us a foretaste [of the Heavenly banquet] in the trial of death.
Oh sweet Jesus, Oh pious Jesus, Oh Jesus, son of Mary,
have mercy on me. Amen.

Te adoremus
We adore Thee, O Christ,
And we bless Thee,
Who by Thy Holy Cross
hath redeemed the world.
You suffered death for us,
O Lord, O Lord, have mercy on us.

How do you know that you are beloved of God? You have a choice. You can look to your own abilities and achievements and good works, you can look at the way that your life has panned out, the lot that has been given to you - or you can look to the cross, and believe that the one who went there, went there because of love: "God showed his love for us in this: it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

How do you know that you are forgiven? You can look to your own efforts to punish yourself, or to make good yourself - or you can look to the cross, and believe that because he took that punishment onto himself and that he died there, the price is paid and you are forgiven.

How do you know that you are significant? In a world of so much suffering, which tells you that you are simply a product of blind forces set in operation at the big bang, an accident who is the product of two other accidents who had an accident, and you may also have had an accident with another accident and produced a further accident - how do you know that you matter?

How do you know that you have an eternal purpose, when the probable destiny which awaits each one of us is that of growing old and having everything stripped from us, and the certain destiny which awaits each one of us is death? Do we look to our status and achievements (I'm vicar of St Mary's), and try to make ourselves a big fish even if it means we live in a very little pond? Or do we look to the cross, and believe that the one who died there also rose again and has conquered death, and that together with him we have an eternal destiny?

Lent is a time for self-denial. But it is not a time for self-denial now in order to make ourselves spiritual super-heroes then.

It is a time for self-denial so that, stripping away all the things that this world offers - food, comfort, immediate satisfaction - we discover that those things are not ours by right but are GIFT. And as we turn to God we discover - in our brokenness and weakness and emptiness - that our true life, strength, competence and our ultimate joy is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

One day you are going home

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5

"Lord, help me to see this world with your eyes. Otherwise I might value what you despise and despise what you value."

Who likes going camping? Tell us the worst thing that has happened to you when you've been camping!
There is one purpose for camping: and that is to make you appreciate home far more.

The first day is OK. It is exciting. You set up the tent. You boil the kettle on the gas. You explore the campsite. You get told off by the campsite official because your tents are 5.99 metres apart and not 6 metres apart. And you cook the sausages.
Actually we usually stumble at the first stage: the setting up the tent. I have a tent: would you please set it up!
But by the end of the a couple of days, you are usually cold, wet, tired, dirty, the blow up mattress refuses to stay blown up, the battery has run out, the gas has given up the ghost, and you are fed up of living on cereal and soggy bread. [the first time we went camping as a family - May bank holiday (i.e. end of April). We retreated to a pub; another time flooded out]
But the camping trip has achieved its aim. You want to go home!

Paul describes our life here as being like on a camping trip. He talks about us living in an earthly tent. "Now if we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands" (5:1) And Paul knew a bit about tents. He was literally, by profession, a tentmaker.

It’s great fun. When my nephews and nieces come and stay, they and our children want to sleep in the tent.
But it is nothing compared to being at home.
Of course, when we go camping, we do everything we can to make camping comfortable. What can we get .. caravans! We take a large kitchen plastic bin with us; we tie washing lines between trees; we've got this really impressive gas cooker. And then there are the tents themselves. They can be rather grand. There was one that we saw that was like a teepee with a conservatory added. We go camping with some friends from London: every year they turn up they seem to have bigger tents. Next year they’re planning to go into competition with Palace of Versailles.
But however big, however grand, however comfortable, tents are fragile things. They are not built to last. You only need a medium sized storm and most of us are in trouble.
And the problem comes when people go camping and spend so much time making their tent as comfortable as possible that we forget that there is such a place as home.

And living in this world is a bit like camping.
Most of the time we are busy making our tents so nice that we forget we are camping. On Thursday Alison and myself walked round Glasswell's looking for stuff to make our tent nicer; or perhaps I should say envying stuff that would make our tent nicer.
But then there are occasions when life gets stormy; and Paul says that when that happens Christians do not get discouraged because - well, we're camping and we should expect it. And it is not home. In fact, he says, we should welcome the troubles and difficulties and heartaches because they remind us that we are only camping here, and that one day we're going home.

Last week I spent some time with the family of a young woman who were keeping vigil with her as she was dying. As a result when I went home I dreamt quite a bit about death. Someone kindly prayed that God would take those dreams away. I thought afterwards that that was not what I really wished. What I wished instead was to have the dreams but also to have the courage to face up to the fears, together with Jesus, that those dreams were causing in me.

One of Paul's problems was that he was the sort of camper who went about the site saying this is a great campsite, and we should respect the campsite authorities, but remember it is not home. And there were those who hated it when he talked about home; they said it was pie in the sky, and he should be talking about how to make the camping experience better. But he went on insisting that we are just camping, that we don't need to worry too much about how attractive or comfortable our tent is, that we will face troubles while we are camping, and that we should long for home and for our Father God who waits for us.
There are of course people today who say that the most important thing in life is making your tent good, and your camping life as comfortable as possible.

Ajith Fernando, a Christian leader from Sri Lanka who ministers to the urban poor, writes:
"The church in each culture has its own special challenges—theological blind spots that hinder Christians from growing to full maturity in Christ …. I think one of the most serious theological blind spots in the western church is a defective understanding of suffering. There seems to be a lot of reflection on how to avoid suffering and on what to do when we hurt. We have a lot of teaching about escape from suffering and therapy for suffering, but there is inadequate teaching about the theology of suffering ….
The "good life," comfort, convenience, and a painless life have become necessities that people view as basic rights. If they do not have these, they think something has gone wrong …. One of the results of this attitude is a severe restriction of spiritual growth, for God intends us to grow through trials."

How is our tent making getting on? We put a great deal of effort into making it good, but it is just a tent.

I finish with a story. Actually it is a story told by Billy Graham when he went in January 2000 to speak at a lunch. He was struggling with Parkinson's disease.

He said, "I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of each passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached in his other pocket. It wasn't there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat by him. He couldn't find it. The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.' Einstein nodded appreciatively.
"The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket. The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry. I know who you are. No problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one.' Einstein looked at him and said, 'Young man, I too know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.'"
Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I'm wearing? It's a brand new suit. My wife, my children, and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion. You know what that occasion is? This is the suit in which I'll be buried. But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want you to immediately remember the suit I'm wearing. I want you to remember this: I not only know who I am, I also know where I'm going."

Living this life is like living in a tent; don't get discouraged when bad things happen - it reminds us that we are camping, and it is all part and parcel of camping; and one day you're going home.