The Funeral of Janice Nethkin

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May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be alway acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Every funeral marks an end and a beginning. It is an end insofar as we who are left behind say a temporary goodbye (though not an eternal farewell). It’s a beginning because today we turn Janice over to God, knowing that she is with him now. It is for this reason that Jesus’ words in John 14, “Let not your hearts be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me” are both reasonable but really quite hard. Jesus tells us that “I go to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house are many mansions.” He is giving us a view of the life to come. A life where we see God and live in Communion with him eternally. But such a claim often feels too good to be true. Yet God is so great that it’s precisely because it seems too good to be true that we know it is. And it’s true this day for Joseph and it, Lord willing, be true for us one day too.
In Romans 8, which was read just a few moments ago, St. Paul gave us a preview of what that rest looks like when he tells us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Or, as Jesus says in John 14, “I go to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house are many mansions.” Both verses give us a view of the life to come; a life where we see God and live in Communion with him eternally. Such a claim might seem to good to be true but that’s how we know it is true. Because God is that great. And so we know that Janice is experiencing that glory now and one day, Lord willing, that will be true of us too.
But how do we get there from here? God can often seem distant. But that perceived distance isn’t because God is objectively far away; he’s closer to us than we are to ourselves. Because this perceived distance comes from the fact that we are not what we should be. So, we ask ourselves, “Why would God want anything to do with us?” When we were far off from God, separated from him by our sin and rebellion, Our Lord Jesus Christ who is “God from God, light from light, very God of very God” stepped into time and space, took on a body like our body and died on the cross, offering himself to God as the sacrifice for our sins. This is a God who truly is love; who truly is faithful. And we receive the benefits that he won for us in the sacrament of baptism, as Paul said in the reading from Romans that we heard today: “so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death.” Through baptism, the old, sinful person dies and new life is placed into our hearts. And there’s a beauty in this because it’s a concrete moment in time we can always look to as proof that God does love us. There’s no need to wring our hands in the middle of the night. In those moments when we doubt, we always have our baptism to look back on as proof that God is love.
So today, we are here to formally turn Janice over to God. The same God who turns our hearts from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. And we pray for the repose of her soul, that light perpetual may shine upon her. And we grieve because he’s not longer here. But we can trust that the same God whose property is always to have mercy will be faithful and merciful because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And as we remember and celebrate her life today, let us also take this opportunity to place our own lives in context. From dust to dust, ashes to ashes. We will all one day die. So every funeral is an opportunity for us to reflect on our own lives. As we hand Janice over to God, do we trust our Lord with our own lives? Do we participate with God through the lift of the Church? Do we treasure the gifts he gives us in our lives, especially those of our families? God holds all things together in his hands. He holds Marc now. In our deaths, Lord willing, he will hold us too. God loves you. God loves Janice. May she rest in peace.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
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