Funeral of Marlaine Champaign (Rev 21; Jn 11; Job 19)

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᛭ INI ᛭

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

God, our God, is the God of great reversals. “He opens and no one can shut. He shuts and no one can open.” He turns things that can’t be turned. He turns darkness into light. Distress into peace. Death into life. He doesn’t bypass or offer a work around. He blazes a path through the waters, through the darkness, through the grave. “These words are faithful and true.”

Not your typical thoughts during the Holiday Season, but for you this wasn’t a typical season. No one wants to have a more somber Christmas. No one plans the sort of holiday seasons that I’m sure you’ve had. No one plans to have their mom, their sister, their grandma, great-grandma die 5 days before Christmas.

But for you it’s Easter this Christmas Season. Our God is the God of reversals, and, of, um, paradoxes, uh, juxtapositions, of putting different things together than what we’d expect. And so, on the Twelfth Day of Christmas our dear Lord gifts you these Words: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” Words of Promise for you and words of Promise for Marlaine, too.

Easter in Christmas! Easter was previewed and promised by Jesus when He brought Lazarus back from the dead. And Jesus did do that. But we don’t want to jump to the end of the story. There is, of course, great comfort in what Jesus did at Bethany for Lazarus. But there is more comfort in what Jesus does for those who grieve the death of someone they love.

The Lord Jesus is Lord, is Savior for those who grieve. He comes into the midst of their grief. He’s humble and “associate[s] with the lowly.” He encounters Martha and Mary and all those who come to attempt to comfort them. Now, they’re all in different places emotionally and spiritually. So there’s different motivations for what they have to say to Jesus, but they’re all basically asking the same thing. “Why didn’t you do anything, Jesus?”

It doesn’t matter if you’re more emotionally put together like Martha, grounded on her faith in Jesus.

“Lord, if You were here, my brother wouldn’t have died, but I also know that whatever You ask God, He’ll give you.”

“Your brother will rise again.”

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Or you could be a wreck of grief like Mary. She’d, of course, sat at Jesus’ feet, seeking from Him the One thing needful (Jesus Himself and His Word). That’s recorded for you in Luke 10. But today in John 11 she’s a crumpled mass of grief, with words in stark contrast to her sister’s: “Lord, my brother wouldn’t have died, if you’d been here.” Then there’s some of the crowd: “Couldn’t this guy who opened the eyes of the blind man do something so that this guy didn’t die?” Again, they’re all wrestling, each in their own way, with the same question: “Why didn’t you do anything, Jesus?”

What about you, Kurt? Kevin? Or you, Larry? Or Richard, Nancy, Wayne, Alice, Mark? Or any of us! How are we dealing with the reality that prayers were said for Marlaine, but not answered. So, we want Jesus to answer our question. Truth is, if we’re honest, there’s no answer that’s really good enough when your mom or sister or anyone we love dies. And Jesus doesn’t actually directly engage the question. He just gives Words of promise Martha, words of promise for you, and words of Promise for Marlaine, too. “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” And He does Resurrection and Life for Lazarus in front of Mary and the crowd and Martha, too.

But the Lord Jesus is Lord, is Savior for those who grieve. Who ask questions for which there’s no particularly satisfying answer. He comes into the midst of their grief. Jesus “rejoice[s] with those who rejoice, weep[s] with those who weep.” He wasn’t “haughty, but associate[s] with the lowly.” He hates death, and what death does to His friend, and what Lazarus’ death had done to all the people who knew him. “Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked. “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.

The Lord is the God who does great reversals. He previews and promises His own resurrection from the dead by raising Lazarus. He takes care of the sin problem, the true reason any of us die—we’re sinners! The One who put “life in the blood,” sheds His own. The One who is Life dies. And then He comes back to life—He is Resurrection. He came back to live, “never to die again, death no longer has dominion over him.” Not only His own resurrection to eternal life, but promise for your own, for Marlaine’s own, for any one who trusts in Him.

The great reversal is that Jesus died. He was dead, truly dead. They’d seen it. Then they saw Him not dead. He reversed it from the inside out. Being Creator in a Manger (Feed Trough), being King on a Cross, being Life in a Grave. All par for the course for the God who does great reversals. “He opens and no one can shut. He shuts and no one can open.” He turns things that can’t be turned. He turns darkness into light. Distress into peace. Death into life. He doesn’t bypass or offer a work around. He blazes a path through the waters, through the darkness, through the grave. “These words are faithful and true.”

So, we come now to the words of comfort from John’s book of Revelation. We turn here because Christmas is already difficult enough when it comes to family and friends who’ve died, and that’s compounded when the person we’ve loved died around Christmas. But, again, God is a god of reversals, and so our choice of decorations during the season confess that Jesus does reversals. Lights shine in the darkest time of the year. The ever green tree, not only sign of Christmas, but it is a sign of life in the midst of death. Tree as a sign not only of Christmas but of Resurrection—Tree of Life. As John saw in Revelation: On either side of the river of Life, the tree of life [decorated] with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Words of Promise for you and for Marlaine, too.

“He opens and no one can shut. He shuts and no one can open.” He turns things that can’t be turned. He turns darkness into light. Distress into peace. Death into life. He doesn’t bypass or offer a work around. He blazes a path through the waters, through the darkness, through the grave. “These words are faithful and true.”

He gives freely of His fullness. Baptism, a gifting of forgiveness and promise for sharing in the rivers of the waters of life without payment. Christ made the payment for you at Calvary. He offers to eat from the Tree of Life now—in the fruits of His cross: His body hung there, His blood shed there. For you for forgiveness, along with a promise of resurrection (Jn 6), a promise of access to the eternal tree of life (Rev 22), a promise, no, the start of the reunion banquet of eternal life. A gathering of “angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven,” Marlaine included—gathered around the throne and the Lamb.

“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!”

“These words are faithful and true.”

Alleluia! Jesus Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

᛭ INI ᛭

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