Death Is Not The End

Grace and Peace to you as we people of faith, continually journey through this season of Lent, towards the one whom the Creator God has sent, Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord. Amen

 Sometimes movies, which are our guilty little escape

Can remind us of the little tender slices of our reality.

There is a scene in one of my favorite movies that resurfaced a couple of weeks ago during a bereavement workshop that both I and Charlotte Gilman attended.

For those of you not familiar with Steel Magnolias, the movie captures the friendships and lives of six Southern women in Louisiana.

This particular scene opens near the end where M’Lynn remains alonge at the gravesite of her daughter who has passed away from an illness.

One by one, all of M’Lynn’s friends delay returning home and instead rejoin her by the casket,

trying to find words to fill up the unbearable and stinging silence of the reality

that none of them wanted to find themselves at that moment.

“How you holding up, honey,” Trudy (played by Dolly Parton) gently inquires M’Lynn who can only respond with one word, fine

The silence is almost uncomfortable as each woman begins to stutter out something, trying to bring comfort and each time, you can see M’lynns face twisting into annoyance.

“It was a beautiful service,” offers up Clairee (Olympia Dukasis)

“The flowers were the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen,” matter of fact states Weezer (played by Shirley McLaine)

And then Annelle (Darryl Hannah’s character) delivers the punch line that should be put in a book on funeral etiquette of

Things not to say to the bereaved

“Miss M’Lynn? It should comfort you to know that Shelby is with her King. We should all be rejoicing.”

M’Lynn without missing a beat snaps back “Well you go on right ahead, I don’t feel like rejoicing. I guess I am just selfish, I’d rather have her here.”

Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord, Lord hear my voice.

Death is woven unfortunately into our lives

We’ve all been there, out there standing on ground that is hallowed and sacred

Yet, ground that seems a little hard and harsh under our feet

And the winds, no matter what the season and even if the sun is shining

Seems to pinprick our flesh into feeling cold and lifeless

That scene in Steel Magnolias, we have at one time or another been in M’lynn’s place

Overwhelmed by meaningful friends and family who attempt to offer up some words of wisdom or healing, and yet-

Sometimes those words are more painful

Because perhaps they too are uncomfortable way death tends to tighten its hold on us,

Paralyzing us,

Smothering us

Mocking us

Reminding us

Of our defenselessness

And so helplessly they flounder, trying to offer up some semblance of hope

Telling us Death is not the end.

That they are in a better place

Saying this with much gumption and gusto

Because we are people of faith right?

We believe surely as Martha believed, in our Gospel text this morning;

Even while mourning she is unwavering in her faith, saying: “But I know God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Perhaps many people who were gathered around the tomb where Lazarus laid

Who had heard of this Savior called Jesus

And knew of the close friendship between both men

And had heard of the miracles before

Waited with their breath trapped within,

To only be released through witnessing the grace and mercy

That God, the Creator had not forgotten God’s promise

Caring even for those people who perhaps did not have importance or status,

unrestricted by the man made limitations made on God’s Laws

And yet would it be unimaginable to think

That there were ancient people among those who were sitting shiva

Would also be jarred into turmoil

With the sudden presence of Jesus Christ

Because perhaps maybe they just didn’t believe

These supposed signs and miracles

Or even in the presence and the reality of the Creator God

Because of their own perilous journey

Think about the crowd, those intermixed within

Suspicious

Doubtful

Angry

“What makes Lazarus so special?”

“Hm, now we get to see if those parlor tricks of his work!”

“Why didn’t this Jesus come and heal my brother when he was ill?”

“Hmph, who does he think he is? Who died and made him king?”

I think as people of faith we forget

And are not cognizant of people’s own journey through the valley

Saying that Death is not the end ,so we should be rejoicing sometimes does not bring comfort

People of Faith, when faced with death

We too, Struggle with the pain

With doubt and with an unshakeable fear

That what if this is it, and death is the end?

Which can be more painful when their loved one is taken away, suddenly

And therefore, they question all of the good that person may have done or accomplished in their lives

And their lives are cut short

Think about where you would fit in among that ancient crowd of mourners, gathered at Lazarus tomb

Think about where you have been in a crowd of mourners at a gravesite?

I’m sure many of us lowered our heads, or closed our eyes

The pain of families wracked with another Fort Hood shooting

Had to vibrate somewhere within us

The shock of families thrust into chaos as a landslide washed away

Precious lives that they loved

Had to grip at our souls

The agony of waiting for thirty days now, of families connected globally by one flight number, Flight 370

Has to leave us clenching our fists

The distress of families locked in a cycle of violence on our urban streets; of communities trapped a world away of civil violence

Who Death seems not to end, but rob them of life and love

Have to leave all of us, with our hands open, with our voices dry and cracked

From ceaseless weeping, crumbled and scattered among the dry bones

“Lord, if you had just been there, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

But yet…

Jesus weeps.

In those moments when there is no other explanation

Is it strange to imagine Jesus standing at a graveside,

In an abandoned alley

Beside a hospice bed

Near a run down, broken house

Outside a military bunker

Alongside a hospital ER room

Jesus wept.

There is Good News.

Jesus not only weeps, but Jesus becomes disturbed

And the Good News is that because of who Jesus is, of His Ministry and Mission

Because Our Creator God loved all of us so much

And weeps when we weep

Death is not the end

Jesus Christ stands before death itself and commands death to release its hold on us…

BECAUSE DEATH IS NOT THE END

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that Jesus Christ weeps for us, weeps with us because Jesus Christ loves us eternally.

And therefore this risen Christ, having experienced death calls us from the throes of death-

“COME OUT!”

Jesus Christ calls us from the situations that cling to us, robbing us of our lives, freeing our spirit

“COME OUT!”

Because Jesus Christ has been given through the power of the Holy Spirit, because God Loves Him and loves us

Nothing in this world-

No situation

No pain

No suffering

Not even death itself

Can separate us from the healing light, unconditional love and the resurrection of eternal life with God!

Thanks Be To God

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