I am working these days on a funeral sermon for a 93 year old.
Jesse was a ‘true original’ — one about whom everyone he encountered had a story. This is one of mine:
It was Easter morning a couple several years ago. Nearly fifty of us were bundled up against the cold for the early service at Fairview Cemetery in DeKalb — always my personal favorite. For me, while there are other places where the Easter Message is so needed, the cemetery seems like a good place to start. Just like on the first Easter so long ago. And so it was in those last weeks of Lent we had asked members of the congregation to share the names of loved ones who are buried at Fairview. Part of our gathering would include speaking aloud those names, one by one by one.
I read those precious names in groups of eight or ten — pausing in between each grouping to repeat the Easter Proclamation: “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” As expected, those gathered enthusiastically responded, “He is Risen, Indeed! Alleluia!”
I had made my way through the list and paused to ask if there were other names to share. And Jesse piped up with this:
“I forgot my gloves! I forgot my wallet! I forgot my hearing aides! But, I’m having a great time!”
And we smiled and responded, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” “He is Risen, Indeed, Alleluia!”
As we sit with both the promise and the expectation articulated in Jesus’ words before us now and as I reflect back on Jesse’s life, this memory is front and center. For it seemed to me that in his 90th year, Jesse had it right. His “treasure” was in just the right place. For while he may have left behind a whole lot of things that normally would matter that morning, not cold hands nor muffled hearing nor even the fact that he had left his cash and driver’s license behind, could get in the way of his utter joy of being with God’s people and celebrating the Easter Promise!
Now it is true that as I listen to Jesus’ words for us once more, I found myself wondering as I always do. For why it is that God’s Reign is not already ours to celebrate in all of its fullness if, in fact, it is “the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom?” And then I read the next line. For with his next breath Jesus seems to imply that while God is waiting to hand it to us, these amazing gifts of God are perhaps already residing within each and all of us. All we have to do is pick up our heads and see what is already so; that the things of this world which ‘wear out and fail’ do not reflect the Reign of God. They just don’t. And perhaps as you and I come to recognize and embrace and live like this is so, this Kingdom God can’t wait to give us will gain a foothold in our hearts and in our lives.
I don’t know if it took our friend, Jesse, nine decades to figure this out. I do know that he offered a wonderful glimpse into our shared future that brisk early Easter day a few years ago of a time when the things we count on and think we need in this life now will become entirely unnecessary and will be entirely replaced by the joy God is yearning to give us even now.
I can’t help but wonder if God is just waiting for you and me to wake up and recognize what is truly “treasure” and what is not. Indeed, I can’t help but wonder if as we live into and are embraced by the gifts of this promise, perhaps the Reign of God might be glimpsed more fully even now. Even as it was at Fairview Cemetery that early Easter Morning a couple of years ago.
- I have offered here a story of one who recognized “treasure” in a way that perhaps ninety plus years can surely teach us. What similar story would you offer?
- How is it that you and I can gain that kind of hard earned perspective now? How would our lives look different if this were so?
- Do you think you and I are part of ‘bringing in the kingdom’ which God is yearning to give us? Why or why not?