Graveside services are tricky. Families expect more than a drive-by dirt throwing, but invariably it’s cold or hot or rainy or windy and there’s never enough seats. I admire Catholic priests— its more difficult to preach clearly with concision. Here’s my best, thrown together 20 mins before the service, effort:
I can’t speak for you, but I can say that Jesus of Nazareth was only one of tens of thousands crucified by Rome, all of whose names are unknown to us, and the Jewish people to which Jesus belonged did not have as a central part of their scripture a belief in life after death.
Take those together and I am convinced that had God not raised him from the dead we never would have heard of Jesus Christ. But you’re here to bury your beloved, earth to earth and ashes to ashes.
Except the language of earth-to-earth and ashes-to-ashes won’t quite do today because you’ve chosen to pay your respects by reading Jesus’ promise in John 14.
“I go to prepare a place for you…”
“I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
As often as we hear that line read on days like today, it’s actually an allusion to a bretrothal not a burial. Before a Jewish wedding, the Bridgeroom would go and build an addition to his father’s house where the newlyweds would live once they were wed. Once the addition on the father’s house was finished, the Bridegroom would return to wed his wife and take her to his home.
This line we associate with death is actually an allusion to a wedding, which maybe isn’t as surprising as it sounds given the fact that the most common analogy Jesus draws to the Kingdom of God is that of a wedding feast a wedding party.
And St. Paul, for his part continues mixing the funeral and wedding metaphors, when he writes that our baptism in to Christ’s death and resurrection is the means by which Jesus Christ betrothes us to himself.
That’s a better deal for your Alice then than even the Psalmist can put it in Psalm 121– the Lord doesn’t just watch our coming and going forevermore. By his bleeding and dying and our baptism into it, God in Jesus Christ has wed us to himself and, by his resurrection, that is a betrothal that not even death can tear asunder.
And as it is at any wedding, every bride brings with her into her marriage every memory that has made her who she is until she says “I do” to her groom.
In other words—
Just as the Risen Jesus still bears the scars life gave, just as nothing of Jesus’ life is lost in his death and resurrection
Neither is any part of your Alice lost in the love we call the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
God doesn’t forget anything about us but our sins; so that, we will celebrate at the wedding feast with one another minus nothing but the sins still between us.
When Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a wedding feast, he says that people will come from east and west and north and south to gather at the banquet table.
The wedding party Christians call the resurrection, therefore, will be like any wedding party worth the expense and the hassle— it will be a reunion of friends, family, and loved ones, drunk uncles and prick elder brothers, scoundrels and saints all served the same feast-going fare because the Bridegroom’s Father has not spared any expense.
Indeed he’s saved the very best vino for us for last.