Wednesday, December 31, 2008

She is not dead but sleeping

[This was shared during a funeral for Joanne, a member of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church, this past week.]

Luke 8:41-42, 51-55
They were all weeping and wailing for her; but he said, “Do not weep; for she is not dead but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52)

Roy asked that these words be among those shared this morning. And for good reason.

Joanne, who has suffered long, with both Alzheimer’s and cancer, has left this life, along with those she loved and those who loved her best. There is a sadness that she suffered, as well as a sadness over loss. But there is also a sense of relief and release that Joanne is no longer suffering and more than that, there's joy that she is with the Lord to Whom she belonged.

Joanne is not dead, not separated from the God we meet in Jesus Christ, the God of life and joy and consolation. She’s alive and in God’s presence, restored and whole, healthier, stronger, and more whole than she was even at her healthiest in this life.

I’ve been at Saint Matthew for little more than a year. So, I didn’t know Joanne before Alzheimer’s afflicted her. But I believe that I got to know her a little bit, first of all, through those who loved and were devoted to her. I understood a bit of Joanne in the way Roy spoke to her and interacted with her, in the love I watched her family give to her, and in the reactions of family and Saint Matthew church members to her passing. Joanne is a woman who evoked love from others.

But I also sensed that I came to know her in another way. I’m of the belief that no matter how totally Alzheimer’s upends someone’s personality—often causing the most loving and placid of people to act cantankerously, for example—the essential personality of the person can still be seen. The last two times I visited with Joanne, at the nursing home one day with Roy and at the hospital in Lancaster hours before she was transferred back to Logan—I felt as though I once more got a glimpse of the real Joanne. Both times, she smiled and she closed her eyes when we prayed. She closed her eyes. Trust in the Lord was deeply written into her personality, no matter how ravaged of mind and body she may have been.

And so this morning, I ask those of you who loved Joanne to trust in the same God in Whom she placed her hope:
The God Who came to us at Christmas to share our humanity with us, the God Who can understand how we feel whether we laugh or cry;

the God Who went to a cross to take the punishment for sin we deserve so that we can share in the resurrection He gained and that we don’t deserve;

the God of amazing grace Who sustains us through sadness we can’t understand and Who will give us an eternity of joy we can’t comprehend.
When Jesus said that Jairus’ daughter was only sleeping, those who crowded around the Jewish leader’s home laughed. Theirs was the laughter of cynicism, derision, and resignation to the worst of this world.

But there’s another laughter, the laughter of joy that belongs to those who know and follow Jesus Christ. It’s the laughter that belongs to those who follow Jesus today and walk with Him in eternity. Even in the midst of your tears, may this be your laughter. And may you take comfort from the fact that one day, all who believe in Jesus, will share the joy that Joanne is enjoying this very moment in eternity. Amen

No comments: