Summary: Death of a young man in a car accident. This is no time for trite words or easy answers because there are no easy answers for a time like this.
_______ Funeral 2 December 2002
There is a dark picture that was painted centuries ago called “The March of Death”. The message is clear. It pictures death marching through the throngs of humanity calling, at will, whom he chooses. He called the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the well and the ill. There was something else in that picture, there were those kneeling by the roadside, pleading to join the march, people who were passed by. The message is clear that, although death is indiscriminate, death finally comes to us all.
However, it makes a difference under what circumstances death calls us as to how we react. If death comes to a very young child, we react in anger; we are even so bold as to question how a good God could allow this to happen. If death comes to one in the prime of their life, our reaction is one of shock and alarm, but inevitably someone will be heard to say, “When it is my turn, that’s the way I want to go – with my boots on!” If death comes as a result of a catastrophe – fire, earthquake, flood – although we are sympathetic, our reaction is one of frustration, for what could we have done to prevent it?
Today we mourn the death of one who is young, one who has experienced much of life but one who had much life to live yet. It comes to one who had much to offer to family and friends, one who was loved by so many. How are we to react to this death?
Today we stand at the most shattering spot in the entire world -- an open grave. It is a time at which we must all face our own mortality as well as the mortality of one we love.
At most deaths we wonder why. Why did this happen? The question ‘Why?’ taunts us and it will for years to come. You are in the depths of pain and sorrow. The question of why only threatens to throws us deeper into despair and depression. The question, ‘Why?’ is not very helpful today. There are other truly more important questions before us today. They come in many forms and meanings. Some of you may be asking, “What does this do to the rest of my life?” Others may be asking, “How can I overcome this, how can I go on?” Am I ready for this moment in my life? Am I prepared? How will I face this moment? Do I really believe that Jesus Christ is the conqueror of death?
We hear the words, "Do not let your hearts be troubled" but it can be hard advice. This is no time for trite words, easy assurances. We do not like to think about death if we have any doubts about our own readiness. "Do not let your hearts be troubled." These are words more for us than they are for ____. We are the ones standing on this side of the grave.
As God’s spokesman today, I dare not give you trite words or easy answers. Our view of the world and our view of God is shaken to the core. We may have wished to think that the world is a safe and friendly place but that idea is shaken by a sudden vehicle accident. We may think of God as some kind of a benevolent dictator who pulls the strings of life with everything working out as they should but today’s realities make such ideas hard to maintain. I need to tell you today what God can and cannot do. He could not fix _____, God could not prevent the tragedy from happening. Bad things happen and they happen to good people. God does not make them happen and God cannot stop them from happening whenever it suits us.
This is a difficult time for all of us. The shaking of our foundations forces us to dig more deeply into our spiritual centre, to probe the critical questions of life. Today we are confronted with the stark reality of death and we have no choice but to think about those questions. What do I believe about life? What do I believe about death and life after death? What place has God in my life? Do I believe that Jesus died for me on the cross so that I may not fear death? Today is not the time to mouth religious formulae or trite assurances. We need hope and we need it now.
God’s intention for life is as Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance.” God does not want or will death, God wants and wills life. God created the world and said, “Behold it is good.” We gather in this place to hear the promises of God. Promises made which God has never forgotten, even though we may have. This is a God who cannot shield us from the “valley of the shadow of death”, but God promises that we will not be alone as we walk through that valley which surrounds us today. Today we can know a God who suffers when we suffer, cries when we cry and promises to take us beyond this life to eternal life which makes life in this world seem like a faded picture.