This morning we officially say goodbye to my sister-in-law, Melissa. Last night we had the family viewing. That is such a difficult thing to do. To see a body that was once full of life lying so still is disturbing to the mind. We never see human bodies that still. Even when we sleep, we move. But not now. Now, the spirit that animates the flesh is gone.
When we look at death, we grieve on two levels. We grieve the loss of someone we love. No more conversations. No more laughter. Gone for the rest of our lives. It is so permanent, so silent.
We also grieve our own mortality. Someday we will either look at everyone we love as they lie there in that same motionless box, or we know that people we love will look at us as our body lies there pasted in the lifeless mask. And we grieve.
Today I have been asked to read scripture at the service. I have no words to speak, so I am relieved to speak the words of the apostle Paul in my place. I have chosen the following passage. The treasure of which he speaks is the glory of the Kingdom of God as it has been revealed in Jesus and plays out in the world today and guides us toward a bright future. The jars of clay refers to our mortal bodies. Now, I will let Paul’s words comfort me…
2 Corinthians 4:7–5:10 (NIV)
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13 It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
5 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.