Requiem Mass: Bob Trantin (April 16, 2024)

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Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.
Robert McCulloch Trantin, Jr.—Bob—is one of my heroes. He was a devoted husband and father, a valiant warrior, but most of all, a faithful disciple with a deep, studious, and inspiring faith and a kind heart for others. Now many of you may know that Easter is not a single day, it’s a 40-day season in which we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ has trampled death by death. Bob’s passing during this season reminds us of the “already-not yet” tension that characterizes the Christian life. Theologian David Bentley Hart captures that tension beautifully when he says, “The Christian should see two realities at once, one world within another: one the world as we all know it, in all its beauty and terror, grandeur and dreariness, delight and anguish: and the other world in its first and ultimate truth, not simply ‘nature’ but ‘creation,’ an endless sea of glory radiant with the beauty of God in every part, innocent of all violence. To see in this way is to rejoice and mourn at once, to regard the world as a mirror of infinite beauty but as glimpsed through the veil of death; it is to see creation in chains, but beautiful as in the beginning of days.”On the one hand, we see death, this day especially; but on the the other, we have a promise of new life. In moments like these, the world would have us dismiss resurrection hope as an opiate of the masses, an evolutionary trick that improves our ability to cope with our grief and fear. But in these moments of grief, it is important to be reminded of the Truth that Jesus Christ is not a coping mechanism; he’s the God who tramples death.
In the Gospel reading for the Mass, Jesus has just arrived in Bethany where his dear friend Lazarus has died. he seems to have arrived late, as Martha cries, “If you’d only been here.” She knows he could have healed her brother. Martha’s attitude reflects the tensions of the Judaism in her day: unlike some factions, she did believe in a future resurrection at the last day, but to them, it was a distant and vague belief. For this reason, Jesus’ words to her are bold, jarring, and beautiful: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” This is Jesus’ own claim of divinity and it’s personal: the resurrection isn’t just some future event; it’s a process that begins with a person. Jesus is so trustworthy that this causes Martha to make a proclamation of faith in Jesus without even seeing him perform the miracle of resurrecting Lazarus: “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” The resurrection is a person: Jesus Christ and his power to raise Lazarus from the dead anticipates the ultimate resurrection of his own self when death could not hold him.
On the foundation of this divine power, St. Paul asserts a daring proclamation in Romans 8, a passage Bob loved dearly and that we read together multiple times, “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Paul makes this claim based on the infinity of God’s love: What can separate us from God’s love? Nothing, not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth, nor any other creature can separate us from that love. We have two proofs of that love today. First, the fact that we exist at all is a beautiful gift from God. God didn’t owe us existence. We didn’t have to come into this world. But we do and that is a great sign of his love. But a second sign of his love is that Jesus has gone all the way to hell and back to liberate his creation that was enslaved to death. And so we stand here today as more than conquerors because it’s not just that we’ve been set free from these evil forces of death and sin; it’s that this pouring out of divine love makes us children of God. And this, we know, is where Bob is, with his Good Shepherd and we know that the Good Shepherd won’t lose even one single sheep.
And so we can find comfort today in the midst of our grief. As St. Paul says at the end of the Epistle reading from 1 Thessalonians, “Comfort one another with these words.” Death is conquered and “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” We know we’ll see Bob again. And we also know that Bob is now with his Creator and Redeemer: there is no pain, no suffering, no anxiety. What was sewed in corruption will be raised without corruption; what was perishable will be raised imperishable. Even though we are now separated from Bob what many consider an insurmountable barrier, we are united to him via Christ, who is the God of the living and not the dead. We will see him again. And so we can find comfort in God’s power over death; comfort in the love of God revealed in Christ’s death and resurrection; comfort in the hope of the Gospel.
Bob will be missed by so many: his family, friends, those of us at St. Paul’s. But this is a temporary goodbye, and not an eternal farewell. In getting to know Bob, I know his deep love for you all and that love would want us all to engage in self-examination: do we have faith in jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls? Do we have the hope of the Gospel, the bold confidence that believes in the resurrection? Do we have love for God? Do we see him in the great gifts that he gives us? Friends, today, we turn Bob over to God, his Creator, Redeemer, and friend. Will we give him ourselves also?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
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