Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hope will not disappoint us. . .

As one who grew up watching a handful of earth tossed into the grave as the pastor spoke "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ..." I am saddened and frustrated over what funerals and funeral sermons have become.  I know I am not alone in waging a war against culture and a funeral industry designed for customer satisfaction to make the funeral a happy place of happy memories exchanged.  Haven't we all grown weary of the emptiness that claims to be a celebration of life, i. e. a walk down memory lane of a life well lived?

If you have any time, watch Antonin Scalia's funeral and pay close attention to the sermon by his son, Fr. Paul Scalia.  Everyone knows that the Judge had some judging words about funerals and some rather pointed thoughts about what should happen.  His son did a laudable job of making the sermon and the funeral about Jesus Christ and not about the prominent life and very public accomplishments of Nino Scalia.  Neither did he reduce it all to mere sentimentality as a family gathered to remember and give thanks for the private life of this public man.  For his family, especially for his father, Fr. Scalia made it about Jesus.

We have so often seen funerals stripped of the confident hope, the significant rituals, and the pointed words of Scripture on the death and resurrection of Him who holds for us a future death cannot overcome.  Perhaps it is because we are no longer sure or certain of the hope that is within us.  We as a nation and culture have raised doubting to the top of the list of virtues and have sacrificed one objective truth after another on the altar of personal preference and choice.  It stands to reason that at life's end we would refuse even to resurrect one jot or iota of confidence.  But that is exactly what the old rites of burial did.  They acknowledged the reality of death, they honored the pain of those who gathered to bury, and the drew us all to the one voice whose comfort addresses a future and not merely past memories recalled.

This is the most profound and poignant gift of the resurrection.  We do not deify death but defy it by invoking the Christ who came to suffer our death that we might be raised in His life.  Where the idea of purgatory had once raised questions about the if and when of the resurrection and reduced the cemeteries and graves of the faithful to dormitories of the dead in limbo, the Gospel restored had brought hope and confidence to bear upon those who grieve (not as those without hope).

In sure and certain hope of the resurrection. . . these are not just words.  These are the words of God's just, clothed with Christ's righteousness, buried with Him in baptism, raised with Him to new and everlasting life, who now invoke the promise of that hope and resurrection when mortal life has breathed its last.   If we cannot offer this to those who gather with their grief and sorrow at the death of the faithful, what do we have to offer at all?  What witness do we have for the world if we cannot speak with conviction, with hope, and with confidence in the Word and promise of Christs?


ErnestO said...

For Lutheran believers, after death is to be "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23).

It has been a long time coming these "celebration of life" events and it is self evident that it has little to do with the Gospel and much to do with make them feel good NOW and of course what a wonderful vehicle for making funeral will be my last ditch(pun intended)effort to share the WORD with my friends and family.

Elsa Quanbeck said...

I so agree with you on the Scalia mass and sermon. It was indeed a witness of Jesus Christ to the world. Thanks be to God!
Elsa Quanbeck

Rev. Weinkauf said...

Dear brother, thank you for your posts. Keep up the good fight. Have a blessed Holy Week.

Anonymous said...

Fr Scalia spoke of Christ, crucified. Did he say that Christ did everything to assure Christians of the certainty of eternal life? Did he offer comfort by declaring that his father is in heaven, or did he say that his father is not yet there, stating that things must be done by humans before his journey can be completed?