Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We Look for the Resurrection of the Dead

Homily at the Dedication of the new Columbarium at the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, Saturday, January 10, 2009: Wisdom 3:1-5,9; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:1-2; John 14:1-6

We say every Sunday as we recite the Nicene Creed,

We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

The readings we have just heard take us through what we mean when we say these words.

First the Wisdom of Solomon tells us,

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God…their hope is full of immortality…the faithful will abide with him in love…

We believe that James Chester, Elizabeth Logan and Rudy McClenney are in the hands of God. Whatever life after death looks like, this much we believe is true, “the faithful will abide with him in love.”

This is the same belief expressed in the 23rd psalm,

…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

These words are made all the more poignant given that the remains of these three, and many more to come after them, are literally dwelling in the Lord’s house.

Then, in case we have gotten too sentimental about the “righteous” part of the description of those who abide with God for ever, the First Letter of John reminds us that it is God who has made these three, and us, righteous.

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.

So we might want to re-translate the Wisdom of Solomon to something like,

The souls of all those whom God has called his children are in the hand of God…

And there should be no doubt that these three, and each one of us, is a child of God independent of our deserving. That is simply what we are by God’s grace.

The Gospel reading holds up that marvelous image of the house with many dwelling places, or, as I like to say, the house where there’s a lot of room. How much room may have even surprised these three who have gone before us. I have no doubt that we will all be surprised at how large God’s house is and some of the tenants God has taken on.

And finally there are those simple, but very profound, words from Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” And the declaration, “no one comes to the Father except through me,” may sound exclusive until we remember the image Jesus has just used about the large house. The way, the truth, and the life of Jesus are characterized by grace and mercy. We do not have a Savior who seeks to exclude. Rather, as John says elsewhere in his Gospel,

God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

It is important this day that we remember these things, as we acknowledge this new resting place for the remains of our brothers and sisters who have gone and will go before us. This is a resting place for their mortal remains, but they are very much alive in God, and that, above all things, we must remember and continually celebrate.

There will be a plaque on the wall which will list the names of those whose remains are at rest here. (I promise it won’t take as long to get the plaque up as it took to configure the columbarium itself!) The plaque will say at the top that simple statement from the Creed, “We look for the resurrection of the dead…”

That statement sums up all our faith, all our hope and all our love. And we stand here today with the conviction that we do none of these things in vain, for

The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God;

We will dwell in the house of the Lord forever;

We should be called children of God; and that is what we are; and

In my Father’s house there is a lot of room.

And these things are the way, the truth and the life that is our Savior Jesus Christ.

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