Isaiah 38:10-20 Psalm 90
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 John 5:24-29
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In our reading today we hear of Isaiah’s anguish. He is having a mid-life crisis big time. He feels his life is all but over; his life is wrapped-up, cut-off, done. I think many of us have been there at one time or another, what’s it all for we ask. The struggle at times seems so meaningless ! Isaiah, along with the people of Judah and Benjamin, was facing exile in Babylon and saw no hope, no future, just a loss of all he had, loss of possessions, loss of freedom, loss of the familiar and subjugation to a foreign king to boot. But then Isaiah did the sensible thing, he appealed to God. Rationally, he pleaded with God, how can he praise God if he is shut-up in the place of the dead away from God. He can’t he says, and pleads to live and he does live a longer natural life as God had planned already, not short as Isaiah had feared. His spirits were revived.
Why do you come here every year, the place of the dead ? To revive your spirits ? It’s because you believe in life; the life you shared with your loved one – mother, father, husband, wife, child, grandparent, friend. For us it is not the place of the dead, it is the place of the living. Death is not the end by any means but a transition, often a cruel transition, but a transition to an eternal life. We cannot be eternal the way we are, we are corruptible in body and mind, we need to transition to a better state of being.
The Psalmist recognises this too. He understands that we struggle through this life, with one issue after another, because we are far from the intended perfect creatures God first created. We can see that perfection in every baby born, a tiny perfect being, but life gets hold of that little child and teaches lessons he or she would rather not learn. The Palmist though knows that we come out the other end, having been hurt by life, realising that our true future rests in our being true Children of God clamouring for God’s love and protection from all that ails us.
Paul continues from where those two left off. We have to die that’s just the physics of our present existence. But death is not the be-all and end-all it is cranked-up to be. Death is no end, it has no victory over us, it is instead the key to the door that leads to eternal life.
We know our loved ones are not forever dead, in fact right now they are resting in God’s closer presence in spirit. Other religions say that as long as ancestors are remembered they live, but we know better, they live now because of God’s Will not because of failing human memory. And we know that they will be raised by God to full and eternal life when they and we are called to rise from the grave to eternal happiness.
So this is not at all the place of the dead but the resting place of all who have struggled through the rigours of this life and who have done a good job in doing it. You are here today, not to mourn but to celebrate the God-given lives of members of your family and your friends. You are here to remember the favourite sayings, the quirky natures, the talents, the wonderful things done and the love given and received by all who rest here.
But their rest is not eternal for one day when the trumpet sounds they and we will be raised from the dead; from rest to Eternal Joy. Now if you think that is a miracle, think of that little perfect baby and every other baby, they are each miracles, and look around all that you see is a miracle, that you can see is a miracle, even knowing that you can see is a miracle. None of it is a happy coincidence of atoms coming together but all of it, the birds in the air, the fish in the seas, the cattle in the fields, the insects, the plants, us, all in unbelievable diversity are miracles brought about by the one true God, the Creator. As that is so it is easy to believe, the miracle of life after death, Resurrection from the grave, is believable too.
Now to be honest, it would be a great shock to have our loved ones rise from the grave today, we would all I am sure not know what to do. Shock, surprise, joy, would be our reactions I’m sure. So when you visit the graves as you stand there imagine what you would do and how you will feel, when you see and are with your loved-one again. Be prepared, one day, when God decrees it, it will happen. Be prepared. Be prepared to see them again in their spiritual bodies, those you loved, not as desiccated zombies, but real people enjoying the freedom of walking on this Earth again, feeling the sun and the wind and the rain. Pray that that day will come soon; it will be a day without equal and without comparison.
That day will come, Jesus said so, He lived such a day two thousand years ago at the first Easter and all who rest here, and we, will follow in His footsteps, in due time.
This is the hope that we are promised will be fulfilled, just as the Scriptures have been and will continue to be fulfilled. Brothers and sisters, I ask you in the Name of Jesus Christ to live your lives free of anguish in the sure and certain knowledge of the Resurrection to New Life from this day on, and may God bless you as you do. Amen.