Friday, July 13, 2018

Christian Funeral for Jerald William “Jerry” Quibell

John 11:17-27; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Job 19:23-27

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The story of Lazarus is profoundly human. It gets to the heart our struggle to know God and to understand His ways. It exposes the deep-seated corruption of sin that has diminished our reason and our senses and, thus, our ability to know God. And, it speaks to the often unspoken longing we all have for something beyond this flesh and life, beyond death, that fulfills and completes us and reveals in truth what we were meant to be all along but can no longer remember.
Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died. The glaring fact, however, is that Jesus knowingly let him die. When Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick, He did not rush to Lazarus’ side, but He intentionally stayed where He was two days longer before setting out for Bethany where Lazarus lived. On His way to Bethany, Jesus received word that Lazarus had died. Not surprisingly, Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, were upset with Jesus. Both of them appealed to Him saying, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died,” a sentiment to which we can surely relate.
Now, you must understand that Martha and Mary were people of faith. More than that, they and their brother Lazarus were close friends with Jesus. Jesus and His disciples dined regularly at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. It was on one such occasion that, while Martha was busy and distressed preparing the meal, Mary sat and listened at Jesus’ feet. Later, just before Jesus’ crucifixion, Martha and Mary and the resurrected Lazarus were with Jesus and His disciples at another meal in the house of Simon the leper. It was there that Mary anointed Jesus’ head and feet with costly ointment, which, she said, was in preparation for His burial. But now, at the death of their brother Lazarus, even these women of faith questioned Jesus’ delay asking, “Why?”
We know that the wages of sin is death. We know that all people must die. But, why must some people die so young and in such horrible ways? Why are some families seemingly afflicted by continual tragedy, misfortune, disease, and death? Why do bad things happen to, if not perfect, at least, good people? These are questions that speak to our human condition, and these are questions that are surely in the minds and hearts of many of us, to one degree or another as we commend our brother Jerald into the arms of Jesus.
I think that most would agree that Jerald and his family experienced more than what most would consider a normal amount of tragedy and sorrow in their lives. Jerry’s son Todd died suddenly and unexpectedly at work only four years ago. No one expected that to happen and everyone was left asking, “Why?” But, then Jerry’s wife Karen died suddenly and unexpectedly a year later. Again, everyone was stunned and was left asking, “Why?” Lightning isn’t supposed to strike twice in the same place. It’s tragic and shocking enough to lose one family member to sudden and unexpected death, but two, and in two years’ time? And now, Jerry has died somewhat suddenly and unexpectedly. Perhaps some are beginning to ask, “Lord, are you with this family or not? For, if you had been here they would not have died.”
The answer to the question “Why do we die” is really not difficult to answer, even if we don’t like the answer. We die because of sin: Our First Parent’s sin, your sin, my sin, Gerald’s sin, sin in general. As the Scriptures teach, “The wages of sin is death” – always and only. We will all die. However, that’s not the end of the story, is it? No! Our God who created us in love, loved us so much that He did the unthinkable – He gave His only Son, Jesus, into death for us, as our substitute, paying the penalty for our sin in His innocent life laid down in death upon the cross. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the power of death has been destroyed. Yes, we still die, but death cannot hold us as it could not hold Jesus. This is what St. Paul is getting at when he says “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yes, death still stings, but it’s sting is temporary and fleeting.
Jesus felt the sting of death too when He approached Lazarus’ tomb. When He saw the pain and suffering and the grief of His dear friends and others, Jesus was moved with deep compassion and He wept. Jesus wept that death had to come to His people who were created to live. Jesus wept at the pain, suffering, and sorrow death brought into people’s lives. And, Jesus wept because His people did not understand that, even now, He was the Lord of life and death, who, if they believed in Him death could not hold them and they would live through and past death into life everlasting with Him in His kingdom. The best that Martha and Mary could muster was belief in the resurrection on the last day. What they couldn’t understand is that, for those who trust in Jesus, even in life, death is already defeated. Jesus even says in St. John’s Gospel, “whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Perhaps surprisingly, that is why the patriarch Job could confess nearly 2000 years before Jesus’ birth, “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.” In the midst of his own horrible suffering and impending death, 2000 years before the birth of Jesus, Job could confess that he was already living a life that would never die.
We take great comfort in the fact that Jerry was baptized into Jesus Christ. Long ago Jerry died with Jesus and was raised with Him to a new life that cannot die. Perhaps his was a simple, childlike faith, but there’s nothing wrong with that. That faith gave him a positive outlook on life, even in the face of terrible tragedy and loss like Jerry experienced and suffered. He was always quick with a funny, spunky remark and a comic all the time. He enjoyed laughing and making others laugh. Jerry enjoyed the outdoors: Hunting, archery, fishing, ice-skating and roller-skating. And, he enjoyed his classic cars and could often be seen driving around town in his truck just for the pleasure of it. And, Jerry enjoyed watching his grandson Kyle play basketball, football, and soccer. His grandson was the love of his life.
Yet, all these good things, these blessings and joys, were intermixed with pain and sorrow, suffering, and death. Why? Was Jesus not there? Yes! Yes He was! Through baptism and faith, Jerald was in Jesus and Jesus was in Him. Jerald had already passed over from death to life. Jerry had died and was buried with Jesus in baptism, and he was raised with Jesus to a new life that cannot die. And so, our faith and our hope and our comfort are in our Lord Jesus Christ who claimed Jerry as He own and promised He would never leave him or forsake him, and that nothing could ever separate him from His love. And thus, we grieve, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope. No, we have a great hope, even a promise, that those who die in the Lord are blessed and are with Him, and Christ will raise them up on the last day. Therefore, all the faithful and the Church cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! Come!”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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