Sermon for Funeral – Mr. Michael Easton Thursday 21 June 2012
SERMON FOR THE FUNERAL OF MICHAEL EASTON
21st June, 2012
The Gospels give us brief but poignant accounts of the burial of Jesus. After his death on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for permission to remove his body for burial. Assisted by Nicodemus and accompanied by a group of faithful women companions who had watched at the cross, they wrap the body in a linen cloth and lay it in new tomb in a nearby garden.
All this happened hurriedly because it was the Eve of the Sabbath and nothing could be done after sunset. So the rituals which normally accompanied burial were left unfinished. It is to complete them, to honour the body, and to grieve, that the women, return to the tomb early on the first day of the week.
Ever since, the Church has seen the decent and reverent burial of the dead as one of the works of mercy. So we come here today to do for Michael what they did for Jesus.
The women come, we can imagine, still numb with shock, appalled at the horror of it all: a good man – the good man –the best of men, the one in whom they had found hope and life and meaning, had been cruelly betrayed, tortured and done to death.
Michael died, not at the hands of others, but in a tragic accident. He was taking part in an adventurous pursuit which carried risk – it would hardly have been an adventure otherwise. Questions seethe through our minds and there are no immediate and easy answers. Even those of us who do not go in for dangerous sports do not live in a risk-free universe. If we did, then life would be comfortable and predictable but probably pretty dull. But however we might rationalise it, there is still a sense of numbness and shook; of feeling perplexed and troubled as did the women at the tomb.
Death, even when it is expected – say at the end of a long life, surrounded by their loved ones – always brings with it a sense of loss, an aching void in the lives of those closest to that person. But when people die suddenly and unprepared, by accident and far from any human help and comfort, then there is a particular kind of sense of loss, of incompleteness, of a life not fully lived.
The women who come to the tomb had experienced one kind of shock – that of tragedy and cruel loss. They now experience another: the surprise of hope and new life. They find the tomb – but not as they expected it. In their perplexity, they wonder what can have happened.
It is to that perplexity that the angels speak their message: “Why
do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
“Remember.” The women do remember his words. But we are
not told that they understood immediately what their full import was, but in
carrying out the rituals of love and respect, they received a message of new hope and life.
The Church reads those same words at a funeral service – that ritual of love and respect for our dead – to remind us of the victory of Christ over death, so that we might not “look for the living among the dead;” that in remembering we might find hope and know that death is not the last word.
Sermon preached by Fr. Alan Moses