Since then, I can't count the number of visitations and/or funerals I have attended. The hardest funeral I ever went to was the service for a one-week-old baby of a family connected to the school where I taught. He just looked like he was sleeping in his tiny casket. I started crying and had to excuse myself because I couldn't stop. I remember an intense feeling of anger. Anger at sin. No, not any sin this sweet baby or his parents ever committed, but anger at the fallen, sinful condition of the world in which we live. You see, death, was not supposed to be part of our lives.
Before sin entered the world, death did not exist. Death is the punishment of sin. But for the Christian, the one whose sins have been forgiven, death is not to be feared.
Today James preached the funeral of Bro. Bill, one of our (two) deacons at church. He was 80 and had suffered the past six weeks; his body desperately trying to recover from open-heart surgery. But as of Saturday morning, he was struggling no more. Rather, he was seeing his Jesus - the Jesus he met spiritually many years ago and had spent the decades of his life worshiping, obeying, and serving. James preached a rather nontraditional funeral message on the brief snapshot Scripture gives us on the life of Simeon. Simeon had waited his whole life to see Jesus, believing the promise God had given to him. The Holy Spirit prompted Simeon to go to the temple the very day Mary and Joseph were there to present baby Jesus to be dedicated. Though he was old he obeyed, went to the temple, and immediately recognized his Savior even as an infant. In his burst of praise he declares, "Sovereign Lord as you have promised, you may dismiss your servant in peace." He was ready to go, to die, because he had seen his salvation. James then called those there to grieve Bro. Bill to examine their hearts and determine if they were ready, prepared to die, knowing their salvation was in Jesus. Bro. Bill was confident in his salvation because he, too, had "seen" Jesus and was eager to see him anew. Such a beautiful picture of the gospel, of trusting the Lord.
Between our house and the church stands the community cemetery. I've had several remark that it must be creepy to live next to it. I'll admit that one of our first nights here it was a tad scary as one of those solar flower things was putting out random lights in the dark - thankfully I have a husband who isn't easily frightened so he went to check out the random lights. But it really isn't. It's a reminder. A reminder that we are mortal, finite creatures. A reminder of our sinful condition that screams for a Savior. A reminder of the forgiveness I have in Jesus, a forgiveness that stretches beyond any grave. A reminder of the resurrection to come, when Jesus will make all things right and death will be no more.