11/30/2010

Behold, I am making all things new

The following was written for the funeral of my Grandmother-in-law

 

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Eph. 3:17-19

Paul's prayer for the Ephesians is that they might move from love to Love - that their own love, an expression of Christ dwelling in their hearts through faith, might lead them to be filled full with the love of God. There is no other way to know the love of God which is so far beyond our knowledge.

Grandma has completed that journey, from love to Love. Her faith in Christ and love for her family were well known. When Emily was born she gave up smoking, cold-turkey, for her granddaughter. She was always ready to show her love for us by preparing food and feeding us as much as she could manage when we came to her house. Even when age prevented her from cooking full meals, she was always careful to have something prepared at family gatherings. And she showed her love to us in her gift-giving, which was always done with great generosity.

Rooted and grounded in this basis, she has passed from her own faith in Christ and love for her family to now standing in the presence of Love Himself. The love whose height and depth fills all things and now completely fills her, the love that sacrificed itself for her sake, the love that moves the sun and all the stars. She is now filled with all the fullness of God in a way that we can only dream of, and she possesses that understanding of the love of God which is beyond knowledge.

But even now the full expression of God's love for her has not been completed. Her soul has been parted from her body which, worn out like a garment, she has left behind. In her old age it restricted her and failed her, but God created it to be a part of her and she is incomplete without it. The Psalms speak of the faithfulness of God to save us from death, and to rescue our bodies from the grave:

O LORD my God, I cried out to you,
and you restored me to health.
You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;
you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.
Psalm 30:3

For you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor let your holy one see the Pit.
You will show me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy,
and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
Psalm 16:10-11

But God will ransom my life;
he will snatch me from the grasp of death.
Psalm 49:15

These passages express a confidence in God's power to rescue His people from death. Our God is a God of Life, and it is a natural expression of His character to make us sharers in that life. He does not simply offer us blessings after death, he offers to save us from death itself.

Similarly, the New Testament promises us that because of Christ's triumph over death we too will triumph over death - not by avoiding it, but by something much greater: by emerging victorious on the far side of death as God raises and renews our bodies. "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" John 6:20. Our eternal life comes through and because of Christ's life. Because we belong to him we share in his death,  his power over death, and his resurrection life.

Someday soon the God that Grandma put her trust in will raise her body from the ground, renewing it and glorifying it. No longer worn out, no longer sick. She will run and not grow weary, she will walk and not faint. For the breadth and length and height and depth of God will fill her and be her strength. She will be more Grandma than she has ever been.

And this is what God promises to all His people. This is the life that we will share with Grandma at the resurrection of the dead:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.... And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Rev. 21:1,3-5a