READING: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
SERMON : "The Obituary of A Hero"
Rev. Mickey Anders
This sermon was written by the Rev. Dr. Mickey Anders in 1999
for Ordinary 30 - Proper 25) and sent to the PRCL List in
October of that year. Mickey also posts his sermons to his
own sermon page at Sermons by Rev. Dr. Mickey Anders. This
is reproduced here with permission.
In today's Scripture we come to the end of the life of Moses, and we find the
obituary for a great hero.
You can learn a lot from obituaries and epitaphs written on tombstones. Listen
to these real messages found on tombstones:
Side by side are found these "his and hers" messages.
HIS was dated Sept 15, 1854:
Stop here my friend and cast an eye.
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so shall you be.
Prepare for death, and follow me.
HERS, dated April 12 1859:
To follow you I'm not content
Until I know Which way you went.
In a Ribbesford, England, cemetery is found this tribute to Anna Wallace:
The children of Israel wanted bread
And the Lord sent them manna,
Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,
And the Devil sent him Anna.
One creative man decided to play a game with his name in a Ruidoso, New Mexico,
For not rising.
A Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery contains a memory of the manner of death:
Here lies the body
of Jonathan Blake
Stepped on the gas
Instead of the brake.
Lester Moore was a Wells, Fargo Co. station agent for Naco, Arizona in
the cowboy days of the 1880's. He's buried in the Boot Hill Cemetery in
Here lies Lester Moore
Four slugs from a .44
No Les No More.
On Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery Richmond, Virginia:
She always said her feet were killing her
but nobody believed her.
In a Georgia cemetery is a simple message:
"I told you I was sick!"
Well, we can learn as much about Moses from his obituary because his was written
by God. But first God gives him a view of the Promised Land.
We find Moses climbing up the mountain at the age of 120 years. Now that's a
pretty remarkable achievement right there. A few weeks ago I took some of our
Youth to the Breaks Interstate Park where we hiked several of the trails. What
they didn't tell us at the Visitors Center was that some of those trails nose
dive right off the mountainside and then return straight up a cliff, or so it
seemed to me. I found myself huffing and puffing all the way back up the
mountain. Those who were with me would walk a few steps and wait for Mickey,
walk a few steps and wait for Mickey.
But it was not that way with Moses, even at 120 years of age, for the Bible
makes this commentary on his health in verse 7, "His sight was unimpaired and
his vigor had not abated."
I can't help but wonder why that was. It may well be that God miraculously gave
Moses the strength to do the job before him. Then, when the right time came,
Moses went on to heaven. But it might not have been miraculous at all. It
might be that Moses retained his health because he had a worthy purpose all his
life. He never retired. He was always on a journey, a quest. His life had a
mission and a purpose. I believe that is the secret of a long and healthy life
- having a mission.
A lot of people say that it was unfair that Moses didn't get to actually enter
the Promised Land. In verse 4, God says to Moses, "I will give it to your
descendants. I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over
there." After leading the children of Israel for 80 years, Moses does not get
the pleasure of finally being "at ease in Zion."
We find the reason back in Numbers 20. There the Scripture explains that Moses
struck the rock at Maribah instead of speaking to the rock as God instructed
him. In verse 12, the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, "Because you did
not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites,
therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given
But God may have been doing Moses a favor by not letting him cross over the
Jordan River. I suspect that Moses may have become the most miserable man in
the Promised Land. His mission was the quest, not the conquest. The meaning of
his life was in the journey, not in achieving the destination. And that's the
way it is with many of us.
Most of us think if we could just achieve our goals, then we would sit back and
relax. The struggle will be over and life will be good. But I wonder. How
many times have you seen an active person, a person who has worked and struggled
all their life, finally retire and then quickly waste away? I think it's true
for all of us - it's the journey, the struggle that gives life its meaning.
I once read a story about a man who found a cocoon. He watched the cocoon every
day waiting for the butterfly to emerge. One day a small opening appeared. He
sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its
body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It
appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.
Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and
snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily.
But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch
the butterfly expecting that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand
to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.
Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling
around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.
The man in his kindness and haste did not understand the purpose of the cocoon.
The restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get
through the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body of the
butterfly into its wings. That was the only way it would be ready for flight
once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life.
In verse 5, Moses dies and God buries him where no one would ever find him.
It's a touching scene. Moses has been such a great man of God who has spoken
often with God face to face. In the end, it was just God and Moses.
Do you think the people grieved over the loss of this great leader? The Bible
says the Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab for thirty days. Yes,
they would sorely miss this one who had provided such stable and continuous
leadership for them.
Then comes the final epitaph, the one written by God. Verses 10-12 say, "Never
since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face
to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him
to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his
entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of
power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel." What a fitting tribute
to one of the greatest leaders in the Bible!
I wonder what God would write for your epitaph and for mine. I guess it's
really up to us. We may not control when we come into this world or when we
leave it, but we are responsible to make the best of the time we have between.
One of the odd similarities of every tombstone is the way the passage of time is
marked in the same way on every one of them. On every tombstone, you will find
the birth date and the death date. And between the beginning and the end, the
whole of life is summed up with a simple dash.
Some anonymous author once wrote a poem about the "Dash between the Dates." It
goes like this:
Memorial Day was over now; all had left and I was alone,
I began to read the names and dates chiseled there on every stone.
The names, which showed whether it was Mom or Dad or daughter or baby son,
The dates were different, but the amount was the same; there were two for
It was then I noticed something; it was a simple line.
It was the dash between the dates placed there; it stood for time.
The dates there belong to God, but that line is yours and mine.
It's God who gives this precious life, and God who takes away.
But that line between He gives to us to do with what we may.
We know that God's written the first date down for each and every one.
And we know those hands will write again, for the last date has to come.
We know He'll write the last date down, and soon, we know, for some.
But upon the line between those dates, I hope He'll write, "Well done."
Copyright: Sermon by Rev. Dr. Mickey Anders 1999 - 2005
please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.