I went to a funeral today at my church for a father of six children, grandfather of eighteen. A much-loved coach, cook, and encourager, a good friend to many. I know some members of his family. I hadn't expected to be able to go to this funeral, but the morning turned out differently than I had thought it would. I opened the wooden doors into the narthex expecting to find the service already underway. Instead this man's large family was gathered behind the coffin, ready for the service to begin. I turned quickly to the side aisle door and hurried into a pew as the processional cross, the coffin and the mourners came down the aisle. The congregation sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," and I joined in, though not very well. One must get one's bearings before one can sing the hymns at a funeral with a steady voice. And that's hard to do, because inevitably I find myself slipping into that imaginative space where I begin to remember my own dead and begin to grieve for them anew.
I am not special. Everyone at that funeral, at least everyone over the age of 30, has lost someone, has seen firsthand that lives come to a close. Which, I guess, is why we come to funerals--to share the family's grief, to extend the care that we ourselves have received, to carry our own part in this collective grieving about human mortality. And to pay death its due. The sun rises. The sun also sets.
Jesus knew that too.
Every gospel has Jesus knowing something about his death, warning his disciples about it, speaking with Moses and Elijah on the mountaintop about it. He was human. He could, he would, he must die.
Good to know. Bring the body to church. Speak God's word. Share the meal and then return the much-loved loved one's flesh to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
You find your bearings in this dirty world of death, and when you do, you can sing the songs of resurrection with a steadier voice.