Funeral Sermon For Don Taylor
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:20-27 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “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.”
Don, I enjoyed my visits with him every month. Learning of his life as a postman, and operating the gas station for a while, and the numerous other things he did in life, growing up in Wyoming, wandering around for a while before settling down in Aztec. The crazy huge house he built. But most of all I enjoyed when I would read the gospel lesson for the upcoming Sunday, and he and I could spend a minute chewing the fat over the words of Jesus. And what glorious and tasty fat to chew there is in those meaty words of life and salvation, in the words of love and forgiveness. Jesus asks Martha if she believes his words about being the resurrection and the life, because he wants to draw out her confession, that it would be written down for all generations, that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah who is coming into the world. Don’s confession was the same, beautifully simple, childlike for his 90 years, durable and lasting. A person could hear it in his voice as he would recite the Lord’s Prayer, as he would interrupt the silence of thought over a passage to get the conversation started, to explain how the words of Christ impacted him, a person could see it in the way he would adamantly send his offering to support the church. Jesus asks Martha just before giving the world some tangible evidence of what the words mean by resurrecting Lazarus. He is trying to prepare the disciples best he can for his death and resurrection. Trying to get them to understand what it means that he is the resurrection and the life, that those who believe in him will live, even though they die. That those who live and believe in him shall never die.
Those who live and believe in him. To live in him is to believe in him, to believe in him is to live in him. This, to live in Christ, to believe in Christ, this is the gift of baptism which Don enjoyed. “We were buried therefore into his death so that just as he was raised to the glory of the Father, we too should walk in the newness of life.” These are the words of Paul in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Romans. To live and believe in Christ, to walk in the newness of life, the joy of life that comes with faith in Jesus like the green grass of April, and the spring flowers of May when even a cactus explodes with the blossoms of life. To know that your sins are forgiven because the God of the living cared enough for your soul to pay for them with his life. Every poor decision you ever made, every time your best intentions blew up in your face and sent you into a spiral of frustration and despair resulting in screw ups you could not imagine beforehand, leaving you with wonder if anyone could possibly love you after all that, because you have a hard time loving yourself, and then, Christ, the very love of God himself pours out his life for you to sanctify you in the washing of the water with the word, like a spring rain washing away the winter grime that life would blossom in the morning sun. This is the newness of life that Christ brings, that Christ gives, that Christ bestowed upon Don in baptism. This is the life, the full weight and glory of which he now enjoys with Christ, the full glory that comes as the perishable puts on the imperishable, the mortal the immortal, and all the saints of resurrection taunt and sing: “Death, is swallowed up in victory” Oh death where is thy victory? Oh death where is thy sting?” The anthem of the victory feast of the lamb, our God and king, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It is his victory we celebrate today, even as we mourn our loss, that though we mourn we do not mourn as those without hope.
Martha tells Jesus that if he was there this would not have happened. Lazarus would not have died. Jesus, though, had allowed Lazarus to die that he would raise him from the dead, that his disciples, even you, would learn to believe. We are often like Martha when it comes to the tragedies of this world of sin and death, a desert valley of dry bones, it is what we see from here to the horizon of life, death. It leaves many without hope, and destroys for them the joy of life. Where is God we ask? Where is he that such could happen? If he was here surely it would not. Oh, but God knows our sorrow, it was he who wept with Martha. If anyone understands the tragedy of death it is God, who gave his only begotten son to die for you. And he is not absent, but he is here it is he who comes in his word to comfort, to embrace, to bring life for all in the midst of his death, in the victory of his resurrection. Rest assured Jesus was there when Don passed away, the Lord was there, that even now the glory of God is being revealed to him rescued from the valley of the shadow of death and given his seat with the multitude beyond number in the victory feast of him who has overcome this world.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.