The Eucharist of Christian Burial
Romans 8:14–39, Psalm 23, Saint John 14:1–6

The conflict we feel today is tremendous. On the one hand we feel immense sorrow at the loss of Nancy whom we loved so dearly and who was such a large part of our lives. And on the other hand we believe that she suffered minimally in her last days, that she is in a better place now, and that she is free from the crippling limitations she recently had to endure.

Into the breach between our immense sorrow and what we believe, Jesus Christ strides in majesty to proclaim to us that our beliefs triumph over our feelings just as his resurrection triumphs over death.

Jesus declares the higher importance of beliefs by commanding his disciples and us to believe. And then he tells us what to believe. He tells us that in his Father’s house there are many dwelling places, that he goes to prepare a place for us, that he will take us to himself, that where he is there we will also be, and, last but not least, he tells us that we already know the way to the place where he is going.

Thomas, as you know, objects. “How can we know the way?”[1], he asks. I have often wondered over the years how to take Thomas’ question. Is he just trying to rock the boat, as we all do when we’re given an unexpected answer? Is he the person who objects just to gain something, a small something, when someone else clearly has the lead?

I don’t think so. Thomas objects, because he has trouble taking Yes for an answer. The Lord has just told him that every one of his fears, and every one of our very human fears, has been answered by Jesus’ ministry. Jesus came and took our flesh to himself in order to prepare a place for us and to take us to his safety. Thomas objects, because it seems too good to be true. Thomas objects, because what Jesus tells him to believe contradicts Thomas’ feelings about what life and death are like. It’s so easy to be like Thomas. Let’s use our human agency and our God-given will to believe as Jesus commands. Let’s take Jesus at his word.

This requires us to set aside our sorrow and our feelings. We set them aside for the greater good of our beliefs that God is good, that God created us for good, that Jesus has prepared a place for us, and that Jesus will take us to himself.

As Jesus orders his disciples to believe, let us decide to believe that when we commend Nancy to God, we are handing her on to a loving and merciful Creator, the one who made her for good and brought so much good out of her. Let us believe that when we commend Nancy to God, we are joining with her and with God in God’s loving purposes for her. Let us believe that when we commend Nancy to God, we are coming a little closer to God’s loving purposes for us as well. The decision we make to believe in God carries us closer to God, and by believing we become what God created us to be.

[1] Saint John 14:5.

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