The Daily Mail (UK) published an article stating that pop songs have overtaken hymns as the music of choice at funerals. In fact, undertakers reported that hymns are declining quickly in popularity, mirroring the decline in church attendance.
So what song do you think tops the “send-off” list?
And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way. . .
Yes, Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” On the one hand, I can’t think of a more fitting song to describe the intoxicating love of autonomy residing in the human heart, but to think that people would choose this song for their own funerals leaves me speechless—well, almost.
The interesting thing about human autonomy is this—there never has been nor will there ever be any such thing. Human autonomy does not exist. When God breathed the breath of life into Adam, our forefather was immediately conscious of his relationship to God, to his environment, and later to Eve. The first words Adam heard were God’s words, and he heard them with the ears of a covenant servant. Adam knew his place as well as his responsibility in the covenant of creation. Adam and Eve knew that God’s word accounted for every blessing they enjoyed.
But Adam and Eve didn’t fulfill their covenantal responsibility in Eden. In the account of the fall, Eve handles God’s word haphazardly, softening it here and adding to it there. When we doubt God’s word and his goodness, sin has taken hold of us. Adam and Eve instantly sensed their shame and did what their posterity continues to do to this day—cover and hide.
Next, God comes looking for his wayward children who seem very aware of their shame but disengaged from their guilt, leading God to ask the probing question: “Where are you?” Previously, the sound of God had brought them joy; now they were filled with dread.
Adam quickly realizes the impossibility of hiding from God, but his new sense of self limits his focus to the feeling of personal fear. And here we stand in solidarity with Adam—unrepentant and ready to play the victim, blaming everyone for our problems except ourselves.
And this is where we would remain were it not for the covenant of redemption. We’d all be singing “My Way” all the way to the grave. But God loved the world and sent his only Son into it—enemy filled as it was—so that whoever believed in him would not perish but have eternal life. But that’s not all. The change that takes place in a believer’s life is so radical that he or she answers God in a very different way than Adam and Eve did in the previous scene.
For example, notice the contrast in Abraham’s response to God’s call.
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1
When Moses observed the burning bush, he also heard God’s call.
When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4)
Young Samuel heard the call of God as he lay sleeping.
Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” (1 Samuel 3:4)
Isaiah heard God’s voice in a vision and responded.
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Mary heard the angel’s announcement and immediately acknowledged her covenant position before God.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
And finally the writer to the Hebrews quotes Jesus.
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:13)
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, my God.’” (Hebrews 10:7)
What money can’t buy and death can’t take away, God has graciously poured out on his covenant children. He has given us new hearts, established us in the new covenant, and positioned us in Christ as new creations, having dealt with our sin, shame, and guilt at the cross.
The important question for me today isn’t what I am as an imagined autonomous self. The question that holds eternal significance is who I am (a covenant servant of God and my neighbor) and where I am in relation to my Creator (in Christ).
The Where-are-you/ Here-I-am contrast caught my attention while reading Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton.