Facing Death

Isaiah 52:13-53:12John 18:1-19:42

There is something meaningful in stopping the Scripture lesson right here where we are. As we gather here today, here in this chapel, it calls to mind something of the tomb where Christ was laid. The table, where we normally gather for celebration, is draped in black. The candles and incense burn, a touch of flickering hope, perhaps, but surrounded by an overwhelming sense of despair and fear. Our Lord has died. His body has been laid to rest. Divine hope, for the moment, is buried and sealed.

This liturgical moment, somehow, seems appropriate for us as a church community at this time in our journey. Since January, we have lost five dear members of this congregation. Jean, Andy, Blanche, Arthur, Deloris, our sisters and brothers in Christ, have died. Many of us have also lost loved ones, friends, colleagues, and neighbors as well. Now there is, for those who follow Christ, the promise of hope that can still illumine the darkness of despair. And yet, there is this looming sense of the inevitable mortality that awaits each of us.

Some of us want respond like Peter, ready to draw the sword, do battle against overwhelming odds, fight against this thing that robs us of those whom we love. Others will join the rest of the disciples in hiding, fearing that we are next, that death awaits us around the corner. Many of us will stand with Mary at the foot of the cross and Mary Magdalene at the door of the tomb and simply weep for what has been lost to us and to the world.

But maybe, just maybe, today is the day to join Joseph and Nicodemus, the two disciples who took Christ’s body, gently preparing him for burial. Maybe today is the day to regard those who have died with the intimate honor so deserving of those created in the image of God.

There will be ample time for rejoicing when Sunday comes. But for now, let us put away our swords. Let us cast aside our fears. Let our tears roll down like the healing waters of baptism as we lay our friends here in this holy place with Christ our Lord. And let us trust them to the same loving mercy of our blessed God whose light still burns in the darkest of tombs.