For what can silence a gathering more quickly than death, that specter hanging over us from the moment we draw our first breaths?
Even so, the scripture we’ve heard and the Gospel proclaimed show us, assure us, that in death there is life, and, despite a natural and understandable desire to rage at God at those moments of loss and grief, God does not, in my theological mindset, cause or allow death to happen.
What God does, however, is hold us in our awful pain, shore us up, and is abundant with love as we see in our Gospel this morning.
Still, we feel the pain and loss and we ask why. We shake our fists at the heavens.
And we’ve done it for centuries. Our ancestors who wrote the Hebrew Scriptures tried to sort it out. The author of the passage from Wisdom wrote, “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things so that they might exist; the generative forces of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them.”
It was written by someone as ordinary, as full of questions and doubts, hope, as you and me. This scripture came from the hands of people no different than you and me. The author didn’t sit down and have a one-on-one round table discussion with God on the subject of death on the Charlie Rose Show. No questions like, “Why create if you’re going to destroy? What’s up with that? What were you thinking?”
No, what was written came from life experience and an understanding of the culture and situation, people, at that time, a means of justifying death. Some thought of God as a vengeful creator who at a whim struck down; fortunately, as we have heard this morning, some did not.
And here we are, still dealing with it, still fearing it, still running from it.
As a hospital chaplain I see death touch many lives and it is never easy to witness; as a mother, I stood by helplessly and prayed to God during those horrible nine days and pleading with him not to take my eldest child, my daughter, after a terrible accident; as a sister when I got a phone call on a Saturday morning that told me my favorite and closest sister had passed; I sat in bewilderment and anger as a teenager when my mother died just as suddenly. I had those angry moments. We all do.
I get asked why I believe when – well, fill in the blank.
How can I not? I have seen the little miracles God works in my life – my children, my friends, my congregation, the beauty of creation around me. The outpouring of love is sometimes overwhelming and there are times when I beg for it. It is greater than death and sustains me. I hope that’s true for you as well.
As much as I fear it and fight it, death is a natural part of being a human in creation with a finite life on a finite planet. Suffering, sickness, pain, and evil are a part of living in the natural world. Without death, how would we explain life? How would we make every single moment count?
I’m not so sure that I want to live to be a million, even after I’ve crossed everything off my Bucket List, and read every single book I’ve downloaded on my e-reader, or finally worked through my yarn stash, or run out of ideas for my next novel.
Doesn’t make it easier and it doesn’t answer the question.
What answers the question is God’s love.
What seals that for me, and I hope for you as well, is the extraordinary power of God working through Jesus. His raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead was the promise of the resurrection. The visual image of that, the account passed down from generation to generation, helps us to understand. The idea of finally all being together in eternal life, rising from our own death, is hard to grasp at times – no one here has a first person account of what dying is like – but I could be wrong. This story of Jairus helps us a little. This and the other stories of Jesus raising people from the dead give us an insight into resurrection.
Another way to look at it is thinking outside of our mortal box. We live in kronos, but God and the Kingdom of Heaven is on Kairos – and a thousand years there is no more than a second of what we experience. Kairos would be the eternal life Jesus offers us if we would believe in him.
An eternity sitting at the feet of beloved Rabbouni listening and learning, loving.
Still, there is that specter looming and the pain it brings. The alternative reading from Lamentations tells us “God weeps with us, too.” I believe that is very true. God weeps because we weep. God is there to comfort us as we weep. We are never truly alone in our darkest times. We have seen this in the life and ministry of Jesus and the very fact that we still rejoice in the Resurrection and proclaim the Gospel in our daily lives – sometimes, even using words – is proof positive.
The raising of Jairus’ little daughter is God’s powerful means of showing us love in action. God is love.
God is with us in every emotion, in every part of our lives.
We must not fear. But believe and love.