Today we hold the service celebrating my brother's life. Last week he was playing golf and this week he is dead. No one knew that the cancer was there - he lived life until he died. He had good relationships with his kids and grandkids and siblings. It is all just so stunning to us to think of not seeing him in this life. He asked me to do his service and I will. People from various parts of his life will speak, his children will offer their thoughts and I will say something like the following:
You have heard many aspects of my brother’s life from friends, colleagues and his daughter and son; and the empty space he leaves in our lives. The scriptures, however, call us not to lose heart in the midst of our loss and promise that the love we experience is not ended but changed. From now on we carry the memories of a life well lived and love freely given – we carry that on to the next generation and to one another.
The gospel of John speaks of many dwelling places. The words used are those of traveling – they refer to Jesus as the one who goes ahead on the journey to make arrangements and provide comfort for when we arrive, who leaves tracks and signs of how find our way. Steve has completed his part of the journey. We have ours to live. Steve showed us a one way to live – we each take a piece of that pattern and carry it with us. God, as creator stands at the beginning and end of our lives, God in Jesus is the path and companion, God as Spirit encourages us and gives us hope.
All week I have been thinking about the Parable of the Talents where people are given certain gifts to steward. Some do well with their gifts, others do not.
In Steve, we see one who took his gifts and talents and by giving to the world and to his family, multiplied them far beyond his knowing. As in the parable I hear God saying to Steve, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:9
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we have taken it off* we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe* in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’* Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.