Funeral Sermon for Dana Hall
02 March 2019, 14:28
Psalm 1, 1 John 3:1-3, Romans 8:31-39, and John 14:1-6, 25-27, and Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5
© Stacey Steck
Brothers and sisters, for most of our questions at a time like this, there simply are no good answers. A thousand questions run through our minds when the life of someone we love ends too soon, too unexplained. Why questions. How questions. What-if questions. What-am-I-supposed-to-do-now-questions. And they’re all appropriate, every one of them. We’re in shock. We’re grieving. What else can we do? We’re flooded with emotions and memories, and yes, awful, unanswerable questions. And there’s nothing wrong with us for asking those questions. God’s big enough to take them. But there are no good answers and we are left wanting.
Even though there may be no answers forthcoming from the mouth of God, there is however, comfort, and there are promises, and we are here together to receive them. And there is prayer, and there are friends, and sometimes that just has to be enough to get us through. We have come together to celebrate the life of Dana Hall and the God who gave her to us, and we’ll do the best with what we’ve been given: words and images from Scripture that remind us that God’s heart breaks when ours do, and that to God’s way of thinking she’s not as far away as it may seem. We are here to celebrate that nothing in all creation can separate her, or us, from the love of God in Jesus Christ. And we join to give witness to the truth of life after death, eternal life for Dana who resides in heaven, and meaningful life for we who remain still on earth. Maybe that’s hard to imagine, that we’ll ever find joy again, but the faith we have in our healing God roots us like those trees planted by streams of water, the ones the Psalmist tells us bear fruit in their season, and whose leaves never wither. The season of joy will return, after this season of sorrow.
The disciple Thomas had his questions, too, didn’t he? “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” he asks. And maybe Jesus’ answer to Thomas didn’t sound as good to Thomas as it does to us so many years later, but there it is, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Thomas is afraid of getting lost in the desert, of being exposed to the elements. He thinks Jesus plans to take the disciples to a physical place, and he doesn’t have a map or a compass. But Jesus reorients Thomas, and lets him know that the path to his Father’s house is the one marked by Jesus’ own footsteps, ones we must all follow in order to find the blessings of that house. We can’t make it there on our own, not even in the best of times, and certainly not when our hearts are broken, so God has shown us the way, an answer that may not sound like the answer to the question we’ve asked, but the answer we really need to hear in the end.
All of our questions will be answered one day, but that day is not today. From First John we heard, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” And when we see God, we’ll know what Dana already knows and we’ll find the peace she now has. But in the meantime, we have promises we know are trustworthy, promises that we have nothing to fear from whatever is on either side of the great divide, because God’s love and grace are found on both sides.
It might be that what Dana now knows about God is more about what was her passion in life: alternative medicines that heal the human body and spirit. In the 22nd chapter of the book of Revelation, we find the description of the New Jerusalem that descends from heaven with Jesus when he returns to us, perhaps the very place Jesus was describing to Thomas and the rest of the disciples. John relates the vision he has seen: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” “The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore.” Oh, how Dana longed for that truth to be known on earth as it is in heaven, that healing and justice are possible if we can shine some of our light into the darkness, until there is no more need of any light but God’s.
Yes, Dana knows now fully what we know in part, but the part we know can give us some comfort. A little earlier in that vision about the New Jerusalem, John announces that in that place, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes,” and I take that to mean that our tears are as inevitable as our questions, and that God can handle them both. There will come a time when our sorrow is not as intense, and when we cry less frequently, and when we can think about our futures. And that won’t be because our love for Dana is fading, but because God’s love has accompanied our passage through these difficult times. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, and it will be God’s love that will guide us in life, even as God’s love is guiding Dana in death, to that place described so well by the poet John Donne, “that gate they shall enter, and in that house they shall dwell, where there shall be no Cloud, nor Sun, no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no foes nor friends, but one equal communion and Identity; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity.” May we celebrate this day Dana’s entrance into that “one equal eternity,” and the incomparable love of God which makes that possible.
Let us pray: Grant rest eternal, unto Dana, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon her. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, rest in peace. Amen.