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God's Time: Lewis Bell's Funeral

Unexpected death is difficult to process. This time last week, Lewis was responding to a picture of my daughter’s birthday with an animated gif of Cinderella. Now, I stand here. I know I am not alone in this room. We share in the suddenness of it all.

In the grand scheme of the world nothing has changed. And yet, in our little corner of things much has changed. For Charlotte, Vickie, Bettie and those closest to Lewis, everything has changed.

Like it or not, change has come. Into the scattered thoughts of our chaotic lives new questions have arrived. Why? How? We regretfully look to the past at opportunities missed and worry about the unknown future.

It is here, in times like these, that I am thankful to serve a God who joins me in life’s valleys. It is here, that I rejoice in my shepherd who leads me to still waters.

Let us pray:

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock, and our redeemer.” Amen.

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Alone these words bring great comfort. By free, unmerited grace all who believe in Christ are gifted with his life. Through the grace of God the Father, by the once-offered blood of Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God’s enteral life of love is shared with all who come to him. This “spring” from which the “water of life” flows is given to all, in faith, “without payment.”

Though his dead physical body sits with us here, Lewis lives in Christ! Amen? Amen.

This is indeed Good News, but I think the story of Lazarus — of which we only read a brief section — gives even greater hope in its full context. You see, Martha has faith that Jesus will raise Lazarus at the “last day.” Martha trusts God enough to have faith that her brother — though no longer living — will live again and return to her in the resurrection.

But, here’s the great part. Jesus doesn’t wait until the “last day” to bring Lazarus back to life. He goes to his tomb and tells him to come out. “Lazarus, come out!” You see, God exists outside of time. Outside of time, Lazarus is living. Outside of time, the battle has already been won. Christ reigns. The “last days” have come and gone. While we stand here in the shadow of death, God’s face is already shining on Lewis and the many saints that have gone before us.

Time. In Genesis, when God separates the light from the darkness to make day and night he creates time. Before anything else. Time. Why?

God is unending, pure, powerful life and love. God lacks nothing and never has less even when he is continually giving. We finite creatures — creations with a beginning bound to be in only one place at a time — could not experience God’s infinite love all at once. God in his mercy wants to give us all of him, so he broke his love out across time for us. Like a good father, God took the impossibly big and brought it down to our size. God loves us so much, that he found a way to make the impossible, possible.

In Revelation God says that to those who “conquer, " — those who renounce the world, those who cling to the life Jesus brings — “I will be [their] God and [they] will be my son[s].”

To God, Lewis lives now as his beloved son. Through Christ, we can all participate in this amazing love as sons and daughters of God. The love and light of God that flowed through Lewis flows still. Throughout time we can experience God’s love with Lewis and all the saints without end.

To God that then — life with Lewis and the whole communion of the saints — is now. Like Lazarus being called back from the dead, Jesus, through the mystery of God entering his creation, breaks the not yet into our now. Lewis is gone, but not. He is dead, he will live again, and he lives now.

Now is real. The valley is dark. St. John says that “Jesus wept” at Lazarus' tomb. If Jesus can weep at Lazarus' tomb, who are we to neglect our emotions? It is okay to be sad. It is okay to mourn. My God and Lewis' God is not one who loves from afar. Our God enters the boat in the stormy sea. Our God travels the darkest valleys and highest peaks at our side.

Now we mourn together. And yet, the not yet is already peeping through. Jesus reigns. Death is defeated. The dead live.

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

We praise God for the work he did in Lewis' life. We mourn our loss, together, but with hope, we look to our infinite God knowing that the hand that holds ours now in sadness holds Lewis' in the light of the resurrection.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.