the Funeral for Steven Allen [Douglas]

John 20. 1-10
When loved ones die, we watch for the dawn … together!

It’s been one hundred ninety-one days since the national emergency was declared. I didn’t realize it until this week. It was Friday the Thirteenth! The next Sunday was the Fifteenth of March. It was the beginning of our time in the wilderness. And except for one Sunday morning, at the end of June, we haven’t been back together – in person – since. Socially distanced. Staying at home. Playing it safe. Not rushing in. Everything we’ve done since then has been online. Livestreamed. And for the last couple months, we’ve been trying to find our way back to a kind of normal.

But in the beginning, back at the start, I thought it was important to stay connected with nature. With the world around us. I thought it was important that we remember that life goes on! Goes on and on and on, even at times like this! Goes on as it has always gone on! Flowers blooming! Grass growing! Birds singing! Rain … well, forget the rain! After all, it’s still West Texas! Even in a pandemic! But I decided it was the sunrise that we needed most! Sunrises are the perfect reminders of god’s faithfulness. The prefect reminder of god’s faithfulness and creation’s fidelity. Life goes on … no matter what! The sun always rises!

So, each Tuesday and every Thursday – rain or shine, cloudy or clear, windy or calm – ever since the first day of Spring, I’ve gone out, tripod and iPhone in hand, and livestreamed the sunrise! And I’ve accompanied that rising with Luther’s morning blessing. Apostles’ Creed. Lord’s Prayer. And of course, Luther’s Morning Prayer. “We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all harm and danger ….”

Mary called me, last Wednesday afternoon, and told me that Steve had died. And I was thinking about him – about them – the next morning, as I tromped out to my usual vantage point. And as I was waiting for the sun to rise, one more time, I realized something. I realized that that’s why we’re together, this afternoon. Right here. Right now. This is our time to watch for the sun to rise, once again! Like all believers before us, we come here! Early on the first day! While it was still dark! When all the colors are shades of gray! When everything is silent! Still! Like so many before us! Like so many after us! We come to be together! Together with the one we’ve loved! Together with the one who loved us!

We sit together. We remember. We mourn. We pray. But most of all, we wait. And we watch. For the sun to rise! We wait. And we watch. For the sun to shine. We come here to watch the darkness be turned back. We come here to watch the night be pushed aside. Just like it’s done hundreds of times before. Hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands of times. In every lifetime. But we were – more often than not – too busy, too tired, to notice. But still, we come. And together, we sit and we wait and we watch. Hearts aching. Eyes filled with tears. Watch to see it peep, peek, over the horizon. Witness the miracle, as it rises into the sky. First a glimmer. Then a gleam. Finally, a glare!

This is our confession of faith. This is our creed. “We believe,” the sunrise shouts out into the world! “We believe,” it proclaims! “We believe in resurrection! We believe in life! We believe day always follows night! We believe light always appears in the darkness! We believe love lasts forever! We believe love lasts forever!” But … for now … we just sit … we just sit together … sit in the darkness … holding each other in our hearts … faces half-covered … but with eyes wide open … As together … As together, we wait … and together, we watch … for the dawn that will slowly and surely and certainly come …