“For everything there is a season & a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born & a time to die .… He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a, 11a
Today does not seem beautiful. It is a day of mourning & great personal loss. Weeping seems more appropriate than appreciating beauty. So when our text from Ecclesiastes speaks of beauty, it seems out of place with the sorrow we feel & the bitterness of the tears that we shed. Yes, the sense of loss you & I are experiencing with Les’ death is all too real. He was a beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, & friend. As far as this community & this church goes, Les was as good a neighbor & as steadfast a disciple of Christ as you will ever meet. A more kindly & affable man would be hard to find. So ugliness would be a better term then beauty for what we are feeling today because by earthly appearances it looks like our time with Les is over.
In that sense, death really has a “double-whamy”. In addition to grief, there is also the uncertainty & ?s about what lies ahead: How will I live with this void in my life? Will I ever see Les again? What will happen to me? When these are our gut reactions to death, we can only say its ugly. There’s really no glossing over death. So grief is certainly a very human response to death.
Truly, if we stopped right there, yes, it would be almost impossible to see any beauty in this day. You and I can dig some beauty out of our good memories of Les. I know I have many of them I could talk about right now. We could also maybe see the beauty too in the love and comfort family & friends pour out to us in our time of grief. But these would only be “band-aids” over what is indeed a terminally awful situation. In this life, the reality is death claims our loved ones and us with a finality that is hard to get past. We really, at the end of the day, can see no lasting beauty in death at all.
Yet there is beauty for us today because there is another Word to say about death, Les’ & ours, & it has been spoken by God. You see, God has authority over all things including death so even its ugliness can be made beautiful.
The truth is my friends, God loved Les & you & I so much that He was not content to let death & its ugliness have the final say so God acted to save us. He sent to us His only Son Jesus who too wept over His friend Lazarus’ death. Our Lord knows precisely the sorrow over death you feel this day and shares it with you so in His love and compassion did something about it.
So we mourn today but not without a Word of hope. Our text from Ecclesiastes plainly says that there is more then just pain & death. There is a loving God who has a Word of forgiveness & eternal life that will put an end for all time to the ugliness of death & bring everlasting beauty to life forever.
This New Word tells of Jesus’ cross. Now, at first look, this is not a thing of beauty either. The cross was an ugly instrument of Roman execution. It was used to kill Jesus. But God, who has control over all things, turned even that day of darkness and sorrow into something beautiful. Through Jesus’ cross & resurrection, God removed all barriers -things like sin, evil & even death – that once separated us from Him. As Paul put it in 2 Cor 5:21: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we may become the righteousness of God.” Yes, God chose to make beauty even out of the cross.
So today, with our eyes of faith, in the hearing once more of Jesus’ glorious gospel, we see the beautiful fulfillment of Les’ baptismal promise. God’s promise of eternal life through Christ has now been completed for Les. Paul wrote in Rom 6: “For as Christ has risen from the dead so too will all who have been buried with Christ in Baptism be raised to life in Christ’s resurrection.” What this means for Les is that God’s promise in Rom 8:28 of “all things working together for good” is now a reality. Les is beautifully resting now in heaven because God said it would be so & He does not lie.
God has also decided in Christ that this very same promise of forgiveness and eternal life He gave Les is for you too. God is determined not to let you perish in death’s ugliness either. The beauty of what the Father accomplished through His Son’s death & resurrection He has chosen to give to you as well. Some of you first received God’s promise like Les in Baptism, a few of you may be hearing it for the first time today. But let me assure you either way, this is just not my personal opinion I am giving. God’s Word in Matthew 18:20 says that when 2 or 3 gather in Christ’s name, He is here. So by His command, He calls & authorizes me to say this to you today: “All your sins are forgiven. In Christ, God has chosen you for eternal life in His Kingdom.”
That is the truth of how much God loves you my friends. Through the beauty of Christ’s Gospel, the promise of forgiveness and eternal life that He came out of the grave & through all space & time to say to you today, you now know that death cannot, will not & shall not have the last word over you this or any other day! What this means is that, out of His love, God has decided that the beauty of life will reign forever so you have not seen the last of Les! Yes, today, despite all the tears in your eyes, you can now clearly see God’s beautiful future that He has planned for you that extends even beyond death because you now know that the day will come when your grave & Les’ will be empty just like Christ’s was on Easter. Truly, you will see God’s beauty.
Until that great day, what about your life here & now? What will it be like? This much is true: you aren’t going to be left alone to face what comes next! God will walk with you to bear you up when your sorrow revisits you in the days ahead. The great Christian writer C. S. Lewis once said, “God whispers to you in your pleasure but He shouts to you in your pain.” God does not promise that the days ahead will be easy, but He does promise to give you the strength you will need to face each new day. God’s loving promise in 2 Cor 12:9 is that: “My grace is sufficient for you because My power is made perfect in weakness.” The Holy Spirit will come to you when you need it to speak Christ’s promise of eternal life. Through His own Living Word, God will strengthen you & bring you joy & beauty all of your days in this world, even in the middle of death’s ugliness, because Jesus has done it all for you.