Here is yet another funeral sermon. This one for a local young man who had died all to young. I've taken out his name.
What a curious God we have!
How strange that He would create to begin with. How utterly strange are grass, and finches, chambered nautiluses, and seasons.
How strange that He would then create us.
Us: with our emotions, our various chemistries and impulses. How strange that God created us and imbued each of us with reason, skill, memory, and a beautiful bag of skin to hold all of that in.
What a curious God we have, that would work through history to reveal himself. What a strange thing it is for one outside of time to enter time. We see him most at work in the lives of those who are sensitive to his movements, in the life of Israel, in the life of the church. Of course history and our own lives are filled with the stories of those “God-moments,” those thin-places where God sometimes creeps, other times invades.
What a curious God that arranges things, arranges people, arranges meetings and leavings, arranges our coming and going. What a funny God we have that shines-through even in impossible darkness. What a curious God who would begin to prepare M’s family for his death. What a strange and loving God who would make M and his family, at least more prepared, no one is ever truly prepared for this, nor do they ever fully heal;but to begin to greet his death from far off, and then now, all too close. How interesting that God would bring M home from California, would gather in his family like He did; how strange that M and his mother would talk about God and the life of the spirit the night he died.
What a curious God we have that would come to us, to all of creation, as a creation, as a man. What a strange God who gets so weak, who takes on flesh; and comes to us as Jesus. Other gods are not like this, other gods lord their power over their subjects, but this God of ours becomes a subject. How strange that this God would come and take on flesh, only to grow and feel pain, to suffer and finally die. What a strange God that we have, who assumes all human suffering, and says, “I’ve participated in all of this with you, I am with you.”
A funny God he must be too to give us someone like M, at once so lovely and yet so difficult. One so charming and charismatic but also so hard to live with.
Strangest of all of course is that this curious God of ours made the claim and made good on the claim that death is not the last word. This God raised Jesus from the dead.
This is founding of our religion and it is that which allows us to sing alleluia, even here at the grave. It is this God that helps us to hope and know that we haven’t seen the last of M.
Indeed, it is this same curious God who enables us to participate in his own death and resurrection through the even-stranger Holy Spirit. God has made a meeting place for us and Him in the baptismal waters. Amazing things happen there in the baptismal waters: there we are grafted into the life of God, never to be removed.
C.S. Lewis in his novel, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, gives a beautiful account of baptism and I wonder if there might not be some parallels in it with Matthew.
It seems that Eustace, a young boy who was difficult and, at times, heard to bear, has become separated from his family. In his wanderings Eustace happens upon a dead dragon and in touching it, he becomes transformed into a dragon himself: beautiful and sharp. After several attempts of trying to transform himself back he finally falls frustrated and hopeless. Then Aslan the lion, the allegorical Christ in the Narnia books, arrives and leads Eustace to a pool and tells him to undress. After three attempts of trying to remove his sharp scaly skin he gives up. Aslan then tells Eustace that he must undress him, Eustace tells it this way: p109
“I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do.
The very first tear he made some deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it is worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. . . he peeled the beastly stuff right off -- just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they hadn't hurt-- and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking then the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft is a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he called me-- I didn't like that much I was very tender underneath now that I know skin on-- and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again. ” Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis, page 109.
What a curious God that would take us in so. What a loving and strange God that would meet us in the baptismal waters to peel off all the scales and sharp edges, and then unite us to his death and new life so much so that when Christ was raised, so were we. And to that we all say, “Thanks be to God,” thanks be to God for creating us, thanks be to God for giving us M and thanks be to God for redeeming us and including us in his death and resurrected life. AMEN!