I went to a funeral recently for a very young boy who died in an accident. The funeral service was faithfully presided over by a strong Lutheran pastor who pointed people to the hope of the resurrection that we have in Christ. The boy’s parents and family also did the same thing, testifying to their faith even in the midst of their sorrow.
Each funeral is difficult in its own way. Death is an intruder in God’s good creation and is not meant to be. Death robs us of our loved ones, separating us from each other. This funeral, though, affected me in particularly strong way. I have young kids myself, and I can’t imagine losing one of them. So, at the funeral I went through a range of emotions, from sadness, to anger at death, to hope in the resurrection.
What particularly struck me, though, was the fact that the Church was there to share in the sorrows of the family. People came who didn’t really know the family, just to show their support and share in their grief. This is who the Church is; the body of Christ who shares in the sorrows and joys of each member of that body. When one grieves, we all grieve; when one rejoices, we all rejoice. As I sat in the pew among what must have been nearly 500 other members of the body of Christ, I saw the truth of what Christ had said that even though we may lose everything else, in him we have brothers and sisters (cf. Mark 10:29-30). The body had turned out in force to mourn the loss of a child of God. Part of our body had been ripped from us in this life, and we were sad and angry that death had won this victory.
Yet, even in this sadness we sang praises to God. We looked forward to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting when Christ returns on the Last Day for us. We rejoiced that the little boy we have cried over is now resting with God and will be reunited with his body at the resurrection, as will we all. We rejoiced that just as Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11ff), so too will he raise us all up when he returns and reunite us with our loved ones. So, we sang “Jerusalem, the Golden,” “Joy to the World,” and other hymns. And when the casket was carried out we all listened to “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
In that service, as we simultaneously mourned and praised the Lord, we lived a small sliver of what Job lived. After he had lost his children and all that he had, Job declared: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).
We don’t have the answer to why a young boy has been separated from his parents and family by death. But, what we do know is that death is not the last word. For, the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, is returning for the resurrection to raise us up and make us live again – body and soul – with him and each other in a restored creation. So, we look forward to that day and bless the name of the Lord for giving us hope in that day when we will all live again in a world that is no longer plagued by sin, decay, sorrow, and death. We will live together with the Lord in a perfect creation where all tears will be wiped away and we will rejoice at our most blessed reunion as the saints go marching in to inherit the perfect land prepared for us.
(Image of the “Raising of the Young Man of Nain” by Paolo Veronese [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APaolo_Veronese_006.jpg )