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Funeral Sermon for Wells Martin

January 17, 2009

We all know that Wells loved children. He actually treated them like human beings. He would get on their level, and greet them – asking them questions and looking interested in their responses.
That’s not surprising. Children have a positive affect on lots of people. Children are fun to be around, most of the time anyway. Children have, it seems, limitless energy and enthusiasm. They are always amazed at the news things they’ve learned, their joy of life seems a treasure at times. Children see things that adults don’t. They haven’t been conditioned to recognize and interpret reality the way we adults have. A while back someone gave me a bit of advice and told me not to ask children questions during the children’s time at church. They tend to blurt out answers you weren’t expecting. Children see and experience life differently than we adults can imagine, or remember anyways.

One persistent question that children like to ask is; what is heaven like? They hear about heaven in church, or from parents or grandparents if they don’t attend church, and they want to know. The posture children take is so unlike that of adults, who approach the whole subject with a desire for a scientific explanation or with skepticism. But children don’t need these categories. They see the whole subject of death and heaven and God with eyes that still recognize the marvel and wonder of it all.

Now a lot of people, in times of trial and sorrow like these, turn to God and the bible in a quest for meaning and comfort. And part of the search is a quest for concrete answers, some way to understand the whole issue of death and dying and a way to fit it into the way the rest of the world is experienced. Unfortunately no one has ever come back to tell us what it’s like. And when we turn to religion, we find that the bible is strangely quiet with concrete particulars of what happens after we pass from this existence.

There are hints and allusions however, and we’ve heard one in this afternoon’s gospel reading. Jesus tells his disciples, “In my father’s house are many rooms . . . and I go and prepare a place for you.” Imagine what this statement would have meant to a peasant who lived in the heat and the dust of 1st century Palestine. Imagine a person who sweats and labors in someone else’s field 12 hours a day, who worries if he’ll have enough food, because if he doesn’t, one of his children will starve to death. To this person, who live in a one room shack, what Jesus says is incredible. The whole idea of living in a mansion, in a palace, and having a room to yourself is unbelievable. The concept of staying in the Lord’s house would be such a sign of overflowing generosity and abundance. Imagine, a room to yourself in the Lord’s palace!

Jesus helps us understand a little bit more about what heaven is like, not in a literal sense, but rather of the incredible, overflowing richness of what is promised by God -- an overflowing abundance that is based solely on God’s love for you.

It’s because of this love, this seemingly infinite, unending, unimaginable love, the love God has for each and every part of his creation, that we can find some measure of comfort in this most difficult time. The comfort we are given, the promise that can sustain us, the knowledge that can form the basis of meaning in this chaotic time of grief and fog, can be found in the immeasurable love God has for each and every one of us.

God’s love is an unconditional love, a love that triumphs over all pain and sadness and grief and despair. And the promise is fulfilled in the assurance that God has defeated the powers of death and chaos. The separation we endure with the passing of loved ones is only temporary. We are assured, that in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s promise will ultimately be fulfilled.
So we can step back, in this time of confusion and grief, and when the dust settles we can reflect that Wells is in God’s loving hands, we can find peace in the certainty of the promise that Frank is in God’s loving care. Thanks be to God.

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