I had a funeral this morning for a person who died suddenly of an apparent heart attack. His wife found him Wed. when she came home from work. He was 62. I did not know the family. The deceased had been an active Lutheran before they moved to the south county and then did not reconnect with the church.
Revelation 21:5a, Behold, I make all things new.
The poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “And death shall have no dominion.” He wrote that three times. But of course death does have dominion in our lives. The author of the New Testament letter, Hebrews writes, “It is appointed for each person to die once.” And so it happened to Dylan Thomas, so it happens to everyone and so it has happened to William Goodman. Age 62, is considered young. Even on average we can expect to live another 20 years. But death can demonstrate its dominion, its power at any age and leave behind mourning, grief and sorrow at any age. Death, we all face it. Yet we think little of it until it strikes in our families and leaves a vacant space that can’t be filled. We are left to carry in our memory the one who has died the rest of our life. Out on LeMay Ferry the traffic is whizzing by as it will be on 270 on the way to cemetery. Everyone going about their business. But for those here today and traveling along the way, time has stopped.
However, I would like to present a picture from the early church. They used to call the death of a Christian his “Birthday.” Now that may sound strange to us.
Those early Christian lived in the first glow of the Christian age. They were very conscious of the fact that physical death is the doorway to a greater life. They knew that to die was, as the hymn says, to be “Asleep in Jesus! Blessed sleep, from which none ever wakes to weep”.
So it is fitting to call the day of death a person’s “Birthday.” The follower of Christ enters into a new dimension of that life which knows no end.
It may sound strange, but the early believers knew what they were doing. While day a person dies proves to be a sad day, Christ assures us it’s a day of rejoicing among the heavenly beings, it’s a day of rejoicing for the one who has died in Christ.
Jesus reveals the reason in Revelation “Behold, I make all things new.” “Behold,” is an important word in the Bible. It means “listen up” or “Pay attention to this.” It was an important word when God began making all things new. Let’s jump ahead a bit to Christmas. On the night Jesus was born, an angel told shepherds, “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
But not everyone thought it was good news for everyone. Not everyone liked the gift God had given us in Jesus Christ. So 33 years later a Roman official named Pontius Pilate said of Jesus, “Behold the man.” That led only hours later to the death of this young man on the cross. Yet through his suffering and death, he won for us forgiveness of our sins. He opened heaven’s door.
And so we can say this day, “O death, where is your victory? O death where is your sting…Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now in the time of mourning, in the time of grief, in the time of loss and sadness, we may not be ready to hear those words. However, that is what happened for us in Jesus Christ. Because the last word is not death and grave and burial, but resurrection, and newness and life eternal. Therefore, we do well to hold onto the promise which Jesus made regarding the end of all things, “Behold, I make all things new.” Because even in the darkness God is with us leading us through valley of the shadow of death. In the end the poet was right, “And death shall have no dominion.