Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A homily on Death

It is a pleasure to stand here before you, to experience what it is like to be down here rather than up there. I am going to speak to you today about a subject which some of you may have experienced, others of you have not but one day will. I am talking about that experience common to all mankind, death.
My grandmother is dying. I am seeing death steal her away before my eyes, and I see the horror of that wretched result of sin. Her eyes lull unaware, her mind is dulled as the icy clutches of that ancient foe, slowly entangle her. A woman once vibrant, loving and energetic turned to lay in bed, weak, defenseless and helpless. How I long to share a conversation as I once did with her? How I long to come home and see her cooking dinner, and feel her embrace? How much I long for things that will never be again, for things that are now only memories? For those of you who have experienced this, you know the pain, for those who have not yet experienced, you one day will. I hope to give those already suffering some comfort, and those yet to face a loved one dying—some advice.
I would like to read you a verse, 1 Corinthians 15:20-22“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” In Christ we need not have to fear death for we know that it is not the end. Instead we know that death is a beginning, the beginning of perfection, the beginning of a new life with God in which we ever see his face.
This knowledge is comforting for those of us who have had, or someday will have loved ones dying slowly and painfully, for what God promises us after death is no more sorrow, and no more pain. In Revelation 21:3-4 “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." There will be no more death, no more pain, what comfort it is to know that those whom we love and see slowly dying are going to a place where they will no longer feel any pain?
But what about us? What about those of us left here on earth, hurt, aching, and longing for sweet moments to be spent with those gone? Well its not really about us, its never really about us, it is always about other people, because that is how we are called to live as Christians. But just because we are called to be loving does not mean that we will never be sad. If you are sad about a loved ones death, than you are in very very good company, perfect company to be exact. John 11:32-36
“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. 35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
Jesus loved Lazarus, he was the son of God, and easily raised Lazarus from the dead but a few moments later, yet Jesus wept. Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death even though he knew perfectly well Lazarus would rise. Sadness over a loved ones death is not a sign of weakness, nor a sign of a lack of faith, instead, it is the mark of the sinful world in which we life, one that even our creator cried over. Jesus knows the pain of losing a loved one, Jesus understands what we go through, and he is there for us. We are not alone to suffer through difficult times such as a loved ones death, we have the company not only of all sinful humanity, but also the company of the one perfect human to ever life. Sorrow over death, and our own dying characterizes what it means to be human, rising from the grave is what it means to be God. Praise be to Jesus that he was both God and man—that he may know our sorrow, and provide a hope for tomorrow. I would like to read you a poem before closing. It is titled Oh Lazarus:
Oh Lazarus
Oh Lazarus how wane and pale,
Thy face has slowly grown,
As thy breathing began to fail,
And you uttered your funeral groan.

Weep Mary, Martha Weep,
Thy lord has stayed to late,
Life has from Lazarus already seep,
And set his dire fate.

Lord how easy would it be to heal him,
At thy word lepers clean and blind see,
Yet you let his health wear too slim,
And his life has ceased to be.

Rush Mary rush to the Lord,
“Lord if you had been here,
If only you had been here,
My brother would not have died.

Cry Martha, Wail Mary,
Weep the Jews all in sorrow,
For Lazarus four days buried,
he will ne’er see tomorrow.

And sympathy and sorrow fill the Lord,
The creator of all life eyes turn to tears,
Sharper than any doubled edged sword,
As he mourns the result of sin through the years.

In sorrow Jesus move to the tomb,
Where dread death had held Lazarus cold,
In the foggy mist of time’s gloom,
“Lazarus come out” shout Jesus bold.

Slowly from the rotten grave,
Lazarus four days dead arrives,
Covered in funeral clothes,
Breathing as well as perfect health.

Mary Martha weep no more!
Thy brother lives, he lives again,
Jesus reigns over life and death,
He lives he lives!!

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