November 19, 2018
As we place our loved ones into god’s hands,
so god places them into our keeping.
All for the best… In a better place… God’s will… It’s amazing, at times like this, what we won’t do, what we won’t think,to convince ourselves it isn’t all that bad. In fact, we do our best and we try our hardest to believe that it’s,actually, all for the best. But in the end, it still hurts. That lump in the throat. That ache in the heart. That emptiness way down deep. Sometimes, when death comes quickly,unexpectedly, for a little while, we’re numb. Shocked. Disbelieving. But after a while, even that wears off.
In the midst of it all, we come here. Doing what so many others have done, before us. When grandparents died. Parents. Husbands. Wives. We gather to proclaim Christ. To remember. To give thanks. To comfort and to be comforted. And maybe most of all, we come here, today, to commend someone we love – someone who loves us – into a place he’s always been,a place he never left, into the very heart and hands of god. Today, we say prayers and sing songs. We read bits and pieces of the bible. Tell stories. Laugh. Cry. But when all is done and all is said, we commend Bill into god’s safe keeping.
It’s on the cover of the worship bulletin. “Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant!” That’s the reason I chose the passage I did. Luke, chapter twenty-three, verse forty-six. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” They’re all echoes,reflections, of Psalm Thirty-one. “Into your hands I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God!” But you know, the more I thought about the words, the more I realized that there are more than just god’s hands involved. You see, after Jesus breathed his last, and the crowds returned home, and life went back to business as usual, there were the hands of his acquaintances, as well! The disciples. The women. They all stood closely by, Luke tells us,watching.
In particular, there was Joseph. The one from Arimathea. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. He took it down from the cross. He wrapped it in a linen cloth. He laid it in a tomb. And the women stood closely by and they watched. When it was over, the left to prepare spices and ointments. Jesus commended his life, his spirit, into the hands of god. But it was the hands of Jesus’ nearest and dearest that became those hands.
When Jesus was no longer to do for himself, it was they who did for him. Because of them, he was safe and secure. As he had saved them, they, now, saved him. Helpless. Vulnerable. Exposed. As they had believed in him, so he believed in them. They stood closely by and they watched. And when it was over, they took him in their arms, they took him away, and they laid him to rest. Jesus committed his soul into god’s keeping,but it was their hands that god used. And Jesus rested, certain and sure of their love.
And you know, that’s the bigger reason we’re here, this morning! To commend Bill into god’s hands and, then,to receive Bill into our hearts, into our hands, to do the very thing we asked god to do! Sure, this is god’s time. It’s about god’s heart and god’s hands. About god’s gentleness and god’s love. But this is your time, as well! About your hearts and your hands and your tenderness and your mercy. This morning, here, in this place, you do for Bill what Joseph and the women did for Jesus that Good Friday evening! God loves, just like you! And you love, just like god! Out of your love and faithfulness, you don’t simply, don’t merely, commend Bill into god’s hands! You, also, take him into your own! To wrap in a linen cloth! To carry to a grave! And with reverence and dignity and respect and honor, you lay him to rest! Him who lived, who loved, so well. No, this moment is just as much about your hands as it is god’s. For Bill. For each other.
It was about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’slight failed. And Jesus, crying with aloud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.” But what Luke fails to mention is that there,at the end, Jesus looks out… at his family… at his friends… and he trusts them, he believes in them… And he knows he is safe. Into your hands… into your keeping… I place myself, as well. And having said this, he breathed his last. Breathed his last in the sure and certain love they shared. And they caught him as he fell. Caught him as he fell into their love…