Homily – A Funeral Sermon

A Funeral Homily

Thessalonians 4: 13-17
St. John 5: 24-30

(His Eminence, Archbishop Antony gave the homily this week, so I offer this funeral homily (given 10/15)).

Unity in Love, Now and Forever.
This is my opportunity to give you some perspective – a factual context – that will help you understand your loss and guide your grieving in a way that is spiritually beneficial.   Like many of you, I have tried many such perspectives; I do not waste time with superficialities or pretty words.  I am interested in what really is.  I am interested in the Truth. (St. John 8:32)  
I would like to remind you of this Truth today.  I say “remind” because I daresay you have already known portions of it.  You are feeling a good bit of it today.  This Truth is central to the Gospel: it is that we were made for unity.  We were made to be together; to feel the joy of one another’s presence.   Not just the things we do together, or the words we share, but the joyful reassurance of loving relationships.  When it is done well, marriage is a great example of this.  But so is family, and so are friendships.  We know deep down in our hearts how much better we feel – how much better we ARE – when these relationships are going well.  This feels good and right because we were made for it: humans were made to live in communion and fellowship with one another.
But sometimes things do NOT go well.  We let things come in between us.  These things take many forms: lies, jealousy, laziness, lack of charity… but they sever that bond that united us, leaving us alone, and being alone, leaving us less human.  Less who we were meant to be.  This is how marriages are destroyed, families divided, and friendships lost. As Christians, we call these things that separate and come between us “sin”.  It is heartbreaking when these things happen.  We have all dealt with this.  We know how much it hurts.
But, as much as we know the heartbreak of loneliness and division, we also know the joy when these kinds of divisions are mended and the loneliness ends.  When love is allowed to reach across the chasm that divides us and bring us back together.  When love is allowed to heal our fellowship with spouses, family, and friends.  Love works in many ways: a heart-felt gesture; a kind word; a humble apology; an even humbler forgiveness.  It works through such things in order to reconcile us and bring life back into our shared community.  As much as you know the heartbreak of broken bonds, I daresay you also know the even greater joy of such broken bonds, restored.  This is the celebration of mankind’s victory over division; it is the celebration of love’s victory over sin; and it is the celebration that is the central Truth of Christianity.
Christ told us many times that He became man so that we might all be one; so that the things that continually tear us apart might be overcome.  God is the unending source of unity and love.  His Incarnation allows us to share in this source.  It is through Him – the love He gives to us – that our divisions are healed; it is through Him – through His love for us – that our sins our removed; and it is through Him – through His love that grows among us – that we find joy in communion with one another.  There is no division so great that it cannot be overcome through Him.  Love is eternal.  Love conquers all.
Which brings me to our worship today.   Death has taken our beloved from us.  She no longer takes part in our conversations.  We cannot enjoy her words, her touch, or her presence.   This hurts as much as any broken relationship – moreso because it seems so final.  There is no getting around it: this hurts.
But just as the love of God heals the divisions that come between us here on earth; so has He removed the one that once separated the living from the dead.   That was why He died.  That was why He harrowed Hades and conquered Death with His Resurrection: so that nothing, NOTHING, not even Death itself could keep us from our fellowship with one another.  There is not one Church that is comprised of the living, and another for the dead:  there is only one.  This love is eternal, and through Christ, we can share it with one another forever.  
Now this love that connects you with your departed beloved takes the form of grief, but this grief will be transformed into joy as we all become perfected in unity with one another and with God in the great remaking that is to come.

This is the Truth.  It is not just pretty words.  And it will heal you.  And having healed you, it will, in time, bring you joy.