13 Sunday (B), July 1, 2012 Joseph T. Nolan

13th Sunday (B), July 1, 2012
Joseph T. Nolan
A philosopher could immediately argue with that first line you heard from the Book of
Wisdom, “God did not make death.” He might say “God is the indirect cause of death
because he made us finite, with a body, and thus we die. Also, death does not enter the
world through the devil; that’s an outdated reading of the third chapter of Genesis. But
the Greek author of Wisdom gives us one splendid line: “God formed man to be
imperishable. In the image of his own nature, he formed him.”
We have heard that before – that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God.
How? Because God is love, and we can love; God is wisdom, and we have minds that
can bring us to the truth. All that is aided by God the Holy Spirit. And aided by Godwith-us, Jesus, who taught us how to live And love.
It is always important to remember that because of the resurrection we not only believe in
immortality but the resurrection of the body, and when this seems fanciful or
impoossibl3e, I remind you (and myself) that the Risen Jesus came among us in his risen
body. A changed and perfected body, a new mode of being human. And on faith in his
resurrection the whole church is built.
We need that faith because death is a terrible wound to love. I speak these words to you
now after receiving a staggering email from Europe where a wonderful family of seven
had been on vacation. The youngest of five sons is suddenly dead. Sixteen years old.
How does anyone cope with a loss like that? You know the answer – with the support of
each other, and with a resurrection faith. Remember what Jesus said to the crowd, “Fear
is useless, what is needed is trust.”
Small children die every day and this loss is the most difficult of all. When Charles
Darwin finally gave up believing in God, many assumed that it was a consequence of his
discovery of evolution. Not so – those who knew him well said the reason was that he
could not accept the death of his young daughter, whom he loved dearly. Mark Twain,
the humorist, was utterly scornful of God and religion. But when he, too, lost a daughter,
he borrowed an epitaph for her grave.
Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here.
Warm southern wind;,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night dear heart,
Good night, good night.
And this is an epitaph on a grave somewhere in England; another little girl lies buried
there. It is quite different; it says,
Here lies a piece of Christ,
a star in dust,
a china dish that must
be used in heaven
where God will feed the just.
It is a poem full of insights. Science has told us about the origin of life from the carbon
that entered the atmosphere with the death of stars. Each of us is “a star in dust.” And
also, wonderfully, “a piece of Christ” – we are all the children of God. Human life indeed
is as fragile as a china dish, and as easily broken. But the dish is made by the potter, and
the potter is God. Shaped by his hands, held by those hands, we are safe.
And a life, short or long, has a purpose, a meaning perhaps we see only in another life, in
the filling out of God’s plan. “A china dish that must be used in heaven where God will
feed the just.” Heaven is a banquet, and heaven is a wedding where the beloved is
embraced by Love. Heaven is reunion, and a wedding feast. These are the ways the Lord
of heaven described it when he walked the earth a fellow human, moving towards his
own death which turned out to be death and resurrection.
We think these thoughts surrounded by death, and bounded by our own mortality. And
yet we are not cast down. There is One who takes us by the hand, as he does the child in
the gospel story today, and says, “Get up.” The rest of the message is, “Come, live with
me. The best is yet to be.”