Good Friday: Welcome to your funeral

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Welcome. On behalf of the family of the deceased I would like to thank you for being here.

You have come to a funeral of sorts haven’t you? Well, that’s what they say I suppose.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to go to your own funeral?

Zhang Deyang was 66 years old when he decided to stage his own funeral. He arranged it himself, wondering how many would turn up given that he had never married and had no children. There was a particular reason for his concern—in Chinese culture, the dead are said to have needs, and their graves are supposed to be visited regularly to ensure those needs are met.
In the event, 40 invitees turned up at Deyang’s funeral, along with several hundred others. Yet he wasn’t happy: 20 relatives and friends didn’t show up. “I can’t believe so many relatives and friends don’t care about me,” he was quoted as saying.

Would anyone come to your funeral? What would they say?

I’m sure some teary eyed relative might say something good about most of you right? Have you ever been to a funeral where people didn’t say anything nice? Everyone cries at a funeral, so what? They are supposed to.

So don’t get a big head. Lets be honest. If everyone was honest at your funeral would you be declared a saint.?

We don’t do eulogies in our funeral services at Emmanuel because we don’t let BS in the church. Telling great stories about so and so are fine at home with a couple of beers! I encourage it!

But not here.

If people really knew all you have said and done. what would they really say?

If they knew all your thoughts, words, secret desires that fly through your head throughout the day.

If they knew that you were pretty stingy with your money. Just the other day you walked by that kid being bullied in the hallway. You pretended not to see.

If they knew that you still judged that jerk who hurt you 5 years ago and you now wished he was dead.

If they knew how you talk to your wife at home when no one is watching, or what you do on your computer when no one is watching.

What if God were to speak at your funeral service.

They say that everyone should be able to die with dignity. There is a whole movement called ‘death with dignity.’ Of course they ironically promote suicide. But still we like that don’t we? Death with dignity.

Brothers and sisters in Christ! No one dies with dignity. We die precisely because we have no dignity! Death is punishment for sin. If you die. That is proof you are a sinner!

Well I made a mistake. No one has ever died with dignity except for one! Jesus.

This is his funeral service isn’t it?

Yet what kind of death did Jesus get? It certainly wasn’t dignified!

At jesus’ funeral service they mocked him. They dressed him up as a King and spit on him. They whipped him 40 times. They stole his clothes. They nailed him on a tree gleefully.

At Jesus’ funeral there was no eulogy praising him. Peter denied even knowing him! Judas betrayed him! Others yelled out, “He saved others, let him save himself if he really is the Son of God!”

At Jesus’ funeral they threw him on a cross. They treated him like a sinner! A thief. An enemy of the state!

When He was dead, they stabbed him in the side to make sure! They happily dragged his body off the cross and threw him in a grave.

Jesus, the sinless one. Jesus is the only one to have ever have any dignity! He’s the only one who deserves to have a funeral service with dignity.

So you have come to a funeral service this Good Friday huh?

This is not a funeral service for Jesus.

This is a funeral service for you!

That’s what good Friday is all about! When Jesus died, He took you with him!!!

All of your sins. All of your foolishness. All of your shame. Everything that was done to him, should have been done to you! But it wasn’t!

He received it all in your place!

All your lack of dignity was laid upon Him.

So from now on you do die with dignity! not your dignity – but Christ’s!

Paul tells us that all of us who were baptized into Jesus were baptized into His death! we were buried with him – Paul says!

This is your funeral service!

So you don’t need to be afraid of your funeral service when it comes!
Doesn’t matter what people say!
Doesn’t matter what Satan accuses you of!

You already died in Christ! and all your sins with with you!

in Jesus name

saved

i’m so sorry

The blackness spreads
sometimes
involuntarily
oh, I don’t really mean that
(oh I really mean it. I want it. I hate it.)
If I could take
a big bite out of everything!
and let the juice drip down my chin
but i know the next scene.
scorched earth and tears.

breaking waves of grace
smoothing stones of stubbornness
over and over
please don’t stop.

He thought he loved the girl.
He really did.
She sure did.
But it got lost on the way from asking her to marry him
to holding her hand 10 years in while she struggles with leukemia
and that damned mother in law.
broken bodies, broken promises, broken hearts
repeat

breaking waves of grace
smoothing stones of stubbornness
over and over
please don’t stop

death seems a million miles away until it feels like its everywhere
they left him alone accidentally
staring at white walls, tubes and wires and
something was on t.v. he forgot
beeps and the clicking of shoes rushing to and fro
blood and urine and the man dressed in black
i’m sorry. I don’t even know what for

breaking waves of grace
smoothing stones of stubbornness
over and over
please don’t stop

Jesus
holding
steadfast
hold on
im falling hard
and your hands are bleeding
and i’m so sorry

Jesus; the better Groundhog

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word;  
       For my eyes have seen Your salvation,  Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,   
       A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, 
 And the glory of Your people Israel.”

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       It is not a coincidence that Groundhog day is the same day as the day the church celebrates the Presentation of our Lord. Both days are about hope and life, the end of darkness and cold, the beginning of light and warmth. Ground hog day is a day of looking forward to the end of winter and the coming of Spring. The Presentation of our Lord is a day of remembering how the appearance of a greater hero,Jesus, ended darkness and despair; and began the reign of Light and Life forevermore!

Ground hog day has its origins in a pagan day of importance called Imbolc. This was especially popular on continental Europe. On that day, February 2, it was believed that if the Sun was out, winter would be prolonged. And if it was cloudy, spring was right around the corner. While winter seems to rub many of us the wrong way, I’m not sure we so desperately desire its end as much as people did 1000 years ago or even a hundred years ago. After all, until recently one did not have immediate access to food and comfort all year around. Also, people back then did not have the drugs for common diseases as we have. Therefore much preparation went into winter living. Food had to be stored. Wood needed to be chopped and kept dry. Winter could be enjoyed, but not for long. And it was especially hard on the weak, young and old. This was a time of catching diseases. It was a time of being inside which means disease is easily spread. Many a rough winter wiped out our first colonies in America.

So you can imagine people looking desperately toward warmer temperatures and sprouting plants. The food was running out. The fuel for the fire was dwindling. The newborn babe was shivering and had caught a cold. How awfully exciting and comforting it was back then when the days became warmer and the sun stayed out longer and buds of life peaked out from the cold and muddy ground. Ground hog day was not just a cute holiday but it was about LIFE and DEATH! Spring couldn’t come too soon.

God tells us that the world is living in a dismal season much like winter. Indeed all the world had been put into this season of death and darkness since Adam disobeyed God and grasped for power in the once green garden. And just as snow and cold are the characteristics of winter; death, destruction, division, and despair are the characteristics of the season of this world. All the results of humans sinning, you and me!

This was the desperate season in which lived our relatives in Christ, Mary, Joseph, Simeon and Anna. Mary felt the pain of this spiritual winter when she bore her first born in the lowly stable. And as are most births, unclean blood preceded and succeeded her messy delivery. Indeed that it is why she had come to the temple that day; she had to wait the ordered 40 days of purity until she could be considered clean and be around other people. Her days of separation were concluded at the temple where she came with her firstborn son to do what every good jew did as commanded by God; to present their child to the Lord in thanksgiving for preserving their life. The new couple also came to give two doves for a sacrifice; one for thanksgiving, the other for atonement for the mother’s sins; for her purity! You see a major characteristic of the sinful season was the blood that always flowed from the altars in Israel! Blood for blood. Death for death. An animal’s death in place of a sinner’s death. Mercy and forgiveness with a price!

Yet in the midst of this dark season. Amidst the muddy streets and cold hearts, and lonely eyes, a green sprout appeared! While mary and joseph came to present their miracle baby to God, God in fact presented His Son to the world, specifically the patient adam and eve; Simeon and Anna! While mary and Joseph came to complete the sacrifices necessary for their purification and cleanness before God, God presented His son who would be the FINAL SACRIFICE for the true and complete purity of all sinners! The end of death had arrived! The end of darkness was at hand. The end of mourning and sorrow, of doubt and despair, of waiting, of waiting, of waiting was ENDED!

Simeon had seen the ravages of winter wreck his world for sure. He had seen Israel endure destruction by her dishonest rulers and adulterous children. He had surely seen death take many members of his family. He had surely seen sin separate people; and indeed wreck havoc in his own life. He had surely seen young children die, poor people starve, and many people suffer grotesque diseases and catastrophes. He had seen Satan hold the world hostage in a winter season that had no end! But God had told him to come on this ground hog day, to see the end of winter and the beginning of LIFE!

So when He saw this green bud, named Jesus, he passionately proclaimed, “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word;  For my eyes have  seen Your salvation,   
 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,  A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
  And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Half were words he put together. Half were words he had known since he was just a young child when He first learned from Isaiah of the savior who was to come! NOW, Simeon says! NOW, God declares! NOW the sun has arisen. NOW Life has begun. NOW Death has met its match. NOW The Devil is conquered!

simeonssong-001
We live in that NOW today! Yours eyes have also seen that salvation! And your ears have received the GOOD NEWS! And your hearts have been given the spirit of God and forgiveness for all your misdeeds! Jesus the green blade of life laid down his life like those two turtledoves and received once and for all the wrath meant for all sinners, you and me!
But sometimes we are confused, aren’t we? it so often seems to be so dark outside. Not spring like at all. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters have suffered the ills of the season. Cancer has taken the life of not just an older friend but a young one even! The superficial worries of this world may have claimed a friend of yours who once was so active in the church!

And the darkness… the darkness sometimes strangles our hope and faith. Late at night we sometimes stay up burdened by our terrible sins. Terrible deeds we have done against God, against others, even against our loved ones, even against our own body. Oh we fall down don’t we? Sometimes we would rather live in the darkness away from the light of Christ, alone in our sins. Sometimes we let the dark ways of the world invade our life and our relationships with even our brothers and sisters in Christ. Sometimes we cry out differently than Simeon saying, “ WHERE IS THE PEACE! WHERE IS THE GLORIOUS GREEN LIFE IN CHRIST! WHERE IS THE SPRING?

We live in two seasons my friends; A dark winter that is passing; A bright Spring that has already begun. But the spring is hidden as it is today in our gardens. Tubers and bulbs beneath the earth appear dead to the eye. Yet they hold in them life none the less that will soon bloom. So it is with those in Christ. When you have been captured by your Lord, you have been hidden with Him. Now we live by faith, then we shall live by sight!
It was the same with our Lord. Everywhere Jesus, that green blade of life; went, reversals of this doomed world followed. Everywhere His green and yellow shadow fell, a blind man was given sight. A deaf man could hear. A lame man could walk. A bleeding woman was clean. A dead man was RAISED! When he came and walked among us it was as if one looked out right now upon a muddy and cold field and there was a perfect oasis of green!
Yet the depravity of our condition had never been more evident as when those who have should rejoiced in His presence instead crushed him on the cross and buried him deep into the winter soil. Yet that greatest victory of Satan was turned into God’s victory and our salvation! For Christ’s terrible death gave you LIFE. Just as a seed must die for it to bloom. And that seed did bloom. It sprung up 3 days later and proclaimed the END of DEATH, the END of SATAN, the END of SIN for all those in Him.

And you too have been planted by the Holy Spirit! When you were baptized into Jesus you died with Him on the cross and are now dead to this WORLD. Yet in God’s eyes you have LIFE, LIFE THAT IS NOW! Yet you too are like those seemingly lifeless things, hidden to the perverted eye of the world. But you shall be revealed! On the last day when our Lord returns you too shall rise again just as He did!

That is our hope. But it is a hope that is fed and encouraged NOW by our gracious gardener and Shepherd; Jesus. That is the purpose of the Church. You who despair in sorrow. You who are tired of the dark world and your dark flesh always looming over you. You who are lonely and fearful. You who worry over your children. You who stay up late in sorrow over your sins. Come and be fed by the Lord of LIFE NOW. THE LORD OF LIGHT;. THE LORD OF FORGIVENESS AND PEACE! For here today He comes to you and He feeds you. For His Holy Supper is the supper of life and hope-for it is his very body and blood. And when you eat of it remembering His death is your life, you are given FORGIVENESS, FAITH, and LIFE. And I hope that you take Simeon’s words to heart today as you leave saying,

“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace,
  According to Your word; 
       For my eyes have seen Your salvation,   Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,   
      A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES,
  And the glory of Your people Israel.”

COME LORD JESUS