In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Friends and family of Stub, especially Colleen, Carolyn, and Dan: grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I doubt I’m the only one to whom Stub said that he was slowing down, when someone asked how he was doing. Even though he was in relatively good health, living alone, traveling, etc., he was moving more slowly and unable to do all the things he would have liked to do. I never heard him complain, but the burden of living in this earthly tent weighed him down. I don’t know if he groaned in the tent of his body, but I do. Perhaps you do as well. If nothing else, I know he would rather have been away from the body and at home with the Lord; he had to have longed to be clothed with his heavenly dwelling in order to see those who had gone before him in the Faith, especially Vi.
This passage from 2 Corinthians 5 is true for Stub, because now that he has put off the tent of his earthly dwelling, he waits with all the saints for that great day when he will be clothed in his resurrection body. Because that’s the promise, isn’t it? We do not long to be unclothed—that is, merely taken out of our flesh. God made people to be both body and soul, and He meant it. So if death interferes with God’s good creation, and bodies and souls are separated, you can bet that God has no intention of leaving it that way. The best evidence is Jesus Himself. Jesus didn’t just take on flesh in order to be crucified; He took on flesh in order to be resurrected. When Thomas saw Jesus after the resurrection, Jesus told him to put his fingers in the wounds in his hands and side. When he was talking to the other disciples, He asked for something to eat, some fish, which He ate in front of them. Jesus died in flesh, but He was also raised in that flesh and glorified. So it will be for those who belong to Him: we do not long to be unclothed of our flesh, but to be further clothed in eternally living flesh, rather than just what is merely mortal.
So while this is a promise we believe and confess for the body of Stub, it is also a promise for us here and now. I don’t know about you, but the more I deal with death in this creation, the more it weighs me down. I don’t mean just the dying, but all death’s symptoms—all the ways death reaches back into life: disease, injury, hospitalization, the apparatus of keeping bodies from succumbing to death. I mean all the mourning and crying and pain and—in short—the burden and the weight of simply going through life. Death begins to weigh us down, not just when we deal with the death of a loved one, but the decay and dissolution of our own bodies, and everything that goes along with it.
In the face of such things, we have very limited options: we can try to ignore the facts that are plain to our eyes about how things are in this world; the things we see all around us; the things that we read in the news; the fact that everything we can see says that death wins, that death is the end. We can try to ignore it, but eventually we will face the facts: we ourselves will groan under the burden of living in this world as our bodies fall apart and end in the grave. From that thought it’s not too far to the cliff of despair. But if what St. Paul says is true—and it is if Jesus is risen from the dead—then we don’t walk through this world by sight. We don’t trust our eyes when they tell us death is the end. We walk by faith, and that faith is very specific: what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. There is something more than mere mortality: there is life! According to Paul, we’ve never actually seen life or lived it, at least as far as our shared human experience goes. We can only believe life. But we believe it based not on wishful thinking, not because we are eternal optimists, glass-half-full sorts of people. We believe it only because of what God has done. Paul says, “we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:13-14). Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and even though Stub carried around the remnants of Adam’s curse, that the wages of sin is death, he also carried around with him the life of Jesus in His body. He was marked in his body with the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He had eaten and drunk the very Body and Blood of Christ, crucified but living. He had heard the life-giving words of His Lord through the mouth of me, Christ’s poor servant. And so Stub walked by that faith, and not by what he could see. So on the day when Stub—and all of us who have been made alive in Christ—appear before the judgment seat of Christ, Jesus will render the judgment for the sake of His own blood, precious death, and glorious resurrection. He will say: well done, good and faithful servant. Come you blessed one of My Father and enter into the Kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world. Come and be further clothed in the resurrection of Christ. Come and see the promise that before you could only believe: that this light, momentary affliction did indeed prepare for you an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison with the groaning in this creation. These once unseen things are actually the eternal things. Jesus, who is the Life, has the last word, for Stub and for you.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 9/1/15