I conducted a funeral last Friday. I’ve taken well over 500 so it was nothing unusual. It’s one of the more painful things that we clergy have to do, and yet it’s a privilege to enter into the pain of others and try and ease some of their grief. I can only guess what the family members were thinking but I remember the utter desolation I felt as my own clergy father was buried 20 years ago, the tears and the sense of devastating loss. Whenever I take a funeral I always wear the purple clerical robe that was on his coffin to remind me of how agonising these farewells are.
In this next week the Christian church remembers the death of a young man, crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem. I read the story of that crucifixion and I ponder about his mother Mary, watching her son die in agony and not being able to bear any of his pain. What a waste. What a waste too for those who saw Jesus as a good man, a prophet, a genius, a man who had so much to offer and who was cut down when he was at the peak of his incalculable achievements. It all must have seemed so pointless, as pointless as some of the seemingly arbitrary deaths today. We Christians might be accused of glorying in the death of that young man during the week ahead, leading as it does to Good Friday and our remembering the crucifixion, even though we believe that he was God made man.
But death leads to resurrection. This is the whole point of the story. Jesus died and rose again. The crucifixion is incomplete without the resurrection, the two are part of the same event. Sorrow comes before joy.
That is what we can give to those who stand beside an open grave, or watch the curtains close at the crematorium. This is what Christianity offers to you, if you are grieving or remembering with sadness a loved one who meant so much to you. Death is not the end. Death is transition from life on earth to life beyond death. That is the message of this time of year.
This is a thought not just for today but for an entire lifetime.