This is the sermon I am going to preach on Sunday, February 21, 2010. It comes on the occasion of the death of one of our members tonight, Saturday, February 20.
When Pope John XXIII lay dying, the Pope’s physician is reported to have said, “Holy Father, you have asked me many times to tell you when the end was near so you could prepare.” The Pope replied, “Yes. Don’t feel badly, Doctor. I understand. I am ready.”
With that the Pope’s secretary, Loris Capovilla collapsed at the Pope’s bedside weeping.
“Courage, my son. I am a bishop, and I must die as a bishop, with simplicity but with majesty, and you must help me. Go get the people together.”
His reply was, “Santo Padre, they are waiting.” — Accompany Them With Singing, Introduction.
Last night one of our own left us. Earl Hedrick went home to be with God. I had planned to preach today on angels as God’s ushers, bringing us at death and at the end of time into the presence of God. And while that might be a subject of great interest to us at another time, I felt today I needed to speak to you as your pastor about death, and what happens when death comes to our community.
This is not Earl’s funeral or eulogy, but because his death came so close upon our gathering here today, and came as such a shock to each of us, I want to take a few minutes today to talk about death and how we as followers of Christ deal with the grief and loss that accompanies death.
Dying Is Part of Our Life’s Journey
We all know we are going to die someday, but the will to live that beats in our chest does all it can to push death away. We have sought to remove death from our lives, our homes, even our churches so much that when death does come in unexpected and surprising ways, we are struck with its finality and force.
There was a time when death was seen as the shadow companion of life. Walk through any old cemetery where the grave stones display dates that reach back a hundred or more years. What strikes me each time I visit an old cemetery is the number of small