October 9, 2006

When I first started to think about what I wanted my tribute to Jeff to say, something came to mind that I had never thought of. I tried to think of something to compare Jeff's life to, and something that could describe his purpose here. What I thought of was this: Jeff knew that God was preparing to host a big party in Heaven. Jeff knew there would be great food, great music, great entertainment, and stories like none you've ever heard before. This would be a party like no other, and no one should miss out on the chance to come. Everyday, Jeff handed out invitations to this party, really hoping that the people he handed them out to would come and that they would also invite people they knew. The more the merrier! There were some people that said they didn't have time to come, that they had to work, or had other obligations. But there were some that took that invitation and were thankful that they had been invited, and could not wait for this party to happen. Who would be there? How long will it last? It will be so neat to see some of the faces we have not seen in so long! Those people gave their RSVP, and their name was written in the Book of Life.

This is how I picture the life that Jeff led. Now that he is there, I imagine him saying: "This is better than what I ever thought it could be! I didn't get to invite everyone... there are still people that don't know about it! Would you please tell them about it and tell them and give them directions on how to get here! It's so easy to get lost, maybe they could follow you here."

I was reading in Matthew today, and Matthew 22:1-14 talks about the parable of the wedding banquet. I am sure that I read this before, but it made me smile today when I read it because it describes exactly what I pictured!

Here is the parable:

Jesus spoke to them again in parables saying: The kingdom of Heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, "Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet." But they paid no attention and went off- one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. Then he said to the servants, "The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you can find." So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. "Friend", he asked, "How did you get in here without wedding clothes?" The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, "Tie him hand and foot, ad throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen." Matthew 22:1-14

Again, this is a parable but it is such a good comparison of what Heaven is like and what we have to do to get there. None of us deserve to be invited to this wonderful banquet being prepared. Jesus doesn't care whether or not you are good or bad, he cares about the decision you made here on earth. Will you follow him or will you reject him? There are only 2 ways to go. If you are not following him and moving forward, then there is only one other possibility. The "wedding clothes" that are talked about are not something you can go out and buy. They were already purchased for us when Christ died on the cross for us. All you have to do is say, "Yes, I know my clothes are dirty. Christ is the only one who can clean them for me." It is then that you will put on the wedding clothes, and by God's mercy, you will be accepted into this banquet.

Jesus was only 33 when he was persecuted for who He was, the same age that Jeff was when he was diagnosed. I am sure there were many that said " But Jesus is so young. Look at all the good He is doing here. He has so many years left in Him, this can't possibly be the end!" We said the same for Jeff. But we know that Jesus rose again, and He ascended into Heaven to prepare this party for us to all come to. He left us clear instructions on giving out invitations and directions. We have to make sure we are telling everyone that they are invited to come, and that we know for certain that we will be there as well.

Jeff loved the beach. I picture Jeff spending his days: first with a big breakfast (this was his favorite meal),  going for a run on streets made of gold, and thinking how fortunate he was that someone invited him to come, and that Jesus paid for his way in. I imagine him swimming in the crystal sea and looking to the shoreline, seeing a beautiful mansion that had been built just for him. There are people bringing more and more gifts into his mansion, smiling and calling to him "Another gift has been brought for you. Someone else has decided to come because of the invitation you gave them." I imagine Jeff happier than I have ever seen him here, and I am grateful that because of God's mercy and love, I am going to be a guest at that party someday.

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