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Death is the great equalizer


David Seamands ends his book Healing Grace with this story:

For more than 600 years the Hapsburgs exercised political power in Europe. When Emperor Franz-Josef I of Austria died in 1916, his was the last of the extravagant imperial funerals.

A processional of dignitaries and elegantly dressed court personages escorted the coffin, draped in the black-and-gold imperial colors. To the accompaniment of a military band’s somber dirges and by the light of torches, the cortege descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna. At the bottom was a great iron door leading to the Hapsburg family crypt. Behind the door was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

The officer in charge followed the prescribed ceremony, established centuries before. “Open!” he cried.

“Who goes there?” responded the Cardinal.

“We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Defender of the Faith, Prince of Bohemia-Moravia, Grand Duke of Lombardy, Venezia, Styrgia é” The officer continued to list the Emperor’s 37 titles.

“We know him not,” replied the Cardinal. “Who goes there?”

The officer spoke again, this time using a much-abbreviated and less-ostentatious title reserved for times of expediency.

“We know him not,” the Cardinal said again. “Who goes there?”

The officer tried a third time, stripping the emperor of all but the humblest of titles: “We bear the body of Franz-Josef, our brother, a sinner like us all!”

At that, the doors swung open, and Franz-Josef was admitted.

In death, all are reduced to the same level. Neither wealth nor fame can open the way of salvation, but only God’s grace, given to those who will humbly acknowledge their need.

We invite you to Sunday worship at 8 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. Sunday school for all ages begins at 9:15 a.m. Make plans to join us for our community festival on Sunday, Aug. 25, beginning with worship at 9 a.m. There will also be a meal, live auction, silent auction, a cake walk, raffle, country store, washer tournament, games, and a water slide for the kids. Have a great week.

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