Senator Ted Kennedy died Tuesday night. The patriarch of the Kennedy family was, according to the Washington Post a “the last male survivor of a privileged and charismatic family that in the 1960’s dominated American politics and attracted worldwide attention.” The story reminded readers that his two brothers were political scions in their own right, one serving as President and the other as Attorney General of the United States before being gunned down. A sister who died a few days ago was the founder of the Special Olympics and the only surviving sibling is a former ambassador to Ireland.
That means nothing today.
Edward “Teddy” Kennedy discovered some truths in the waning days of his life that we should all come to know right now.
Death Comes for All
The cold, spiny fingers of the reaper touch all men sooner or later. The writer of Hebrews says “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:4). There is no escape from the condemnation of death which is the just penalty of our own sins (Romans 6:23). I have little doubt that the Kennedy family brought the entire weight of their wealth and privilege to bear on the Senator’s health but to no avail.
On the Press Register website this morning there were 16 obituary notices. Each dear to someone but none with the power and prestige of Ted Kennedy. Yet they all, including Kennedy, shared the same fate – death. We cannot escape the grip of death but we can prepare for it.
“Things” Bring Little Comfort
Senator Kennedy died at the Kennedy family “compound “ in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. The very idea of a lush compound in Hyannis Port brings to mind ideas of wealth and rich living. I suspect the furnishing around the ailing public servant were of the highest order. A staff attended to his every need and that of the gathered family. Yet when his final breath exhaled none of those things mattered to him or to his family. The press of death bypassed all the grand amenities once cherished by the Senator.
It might be easy to cast aspersions on Kennedy because of his wealth but in truth men of all life’s stations are touched by the love of belongings. The Bible reminds us that “covetousness is idolatry” (Colossians 3:4) and that contentment is “great gain” ( 1 Timothy 6:6). God gives us what we need as we serve him.
I will not presume to judge Senator Kennedy. God has not given me that responsibility. However I am certain that the Senator now knows the true value of his time upon the earth. As the writer of Hebrews noted in the preceding passage, judgment follows death. In Luke 16 both the rich man and Lazarus the beggar, knew their destinies just after death. Both were in places unchangeable and unchanging, either doomed to an eternity of punishment or blessed with everlasting glory. The Senator knows the reality of judgment and one would expect that he would share it with those left behind if he could.
The coming days and weeks will bring many memorials, reflections and services to honor the life of Edward Kennedy. But our glory here, if any, is fleeting. Let us pursue the glory of the Father of Lights and leave this old world behind. It has nothing for us.
When we pass, and we all will, let us talk of what lies ahead for us and not what is behind.
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