(to be delivered May 6, 2006)
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! R. He is risen indeed! Alleluia! And THAT makes all the difference. And David knew it, believed it, confessed it,and lived it.
When you first told me about David’s falling asleep in Jesus, Sarah, you said: God took dad to heaven yesterday. Right on! As Jesus promised in the Gospel reading we just heard: “I know my sheep and am known of my own, and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.”
Eternal life - the life that cannot be destroyed by death, the life that rose from the grave with Jesus in His incorruptible body on Easter morning - THAT life is what Jesus promises and delivers into his sheep.
It was a week ago Thursday that David received the Holy Eucharist for the last time in this world. Into his poor body, which had gone through so much, went the very Body and Blood of the Son of God - the Body that carried David’s sins, and yours and mine upon the Cross. The Blood that was shed for our forgiveness. The Body and Blood of Him who not only died for us but rose again on that first Easter, forever beyond the grasp of the grave. How David hungered for that food! He knew what it delivered to him, and how desperately he needed it. Indeed in that Eucharist David rejoiced to receive into Himself “Christ, the Solid Rock” and he knew that all other ground was just “sinking sand.”
Way too often we think of death only from our own perspective. The voice that we will never hear again as long as this age of the world lasts. The eyes that will never look at us again until the great day of Resurrection. But that is to miss out on a fundamental joy: Sarah, you said, God took Dad to heaven. You were so right! Ponder for a moment what that was like from God’s perspective. To be able to welcome home David, his beloved child. To show him the joys of heaven. To see him join in the singing and the music - and you know as well as I what joy that was for him! All of life was a dress rehearsal for the performance that then began and whose sweet melody never comes to an end. The music rises and goes on and on forever. And David was enveloped in that, welcomed into that, and how precious it was to the Blessed Trinity to see the look upon his face when that melody rang through and carried him home. “Precious in the sight of the Lord” says King David “is the death of His saints.” Now you know why it is so precious, why it is so holy a thing.
As awful and hideous and hateful as death is here in this world, when we look at from the other side where the Lord Jesus gathers His saints around the throne and into the music that never ends, well, you can see why joy itself tinges your very sorrow today.
The sorrow today is so real. You will miss him so much. We will too. His kindness, his curiosity, his firmness in the faith, his love of the Bible and his devotion to his family. But there is none of us who can begrudge him the rest he has entered. As Isaiah pictured it, he’s already at the great feast which God throws to celebrate the destruction of death itself.
Today David’s coffin is covered with the pall. I think David would have wanted that. And he would have wanted you all to know what it means. You see, when he was just a baby, not even a month old, his mother and father carried him to Jesus in the font of Baptism, and there Jesus put upon Him the robe of His righteousness. All David’s sins were covered, forgotten, gone from the sight of God. And God said to him: Kid, you’re mine forever. We shall never be separated again.
Which is all to say that David would not want this funeral homily to be about David. He’d say: “Tell them about Jesus, remind them of the cross, remind them of the gifts He gives in Baptism, and at the Table. Remind them to be faithful and remind them that I am praying for each of them until I have the joy of them joining me in this place, covered alike with the righteousness of the Son of God and singing the Song of praise to the Lamb. Remind them.” And so I hope I have.
David, we love you and we always will.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!