As a pastor, few things are harder than preparing for a funeral. Not only are you sharing personally in the grief of beloved friends, but you are bearing the grief of precious sheep. The gravity of speaking the last words of a person’s life and the urgency pressed upon us to declare the gospel are heavy weights on the mind and heart of a pastor. Last words must declare the faithfulness and goodness of God while preparing those left behind to embark upon the voyage of grief. What we say at the funeral must frame life and loss with the certainty of God’s goodness.
Especially poignant is the graveside. In the quiet intimacy of the grave, we feel keenly the tension between a palpable sense of finality and a nagging certainty that there is more. Andrew Peterson says it well.
This is not the end here at this grave
This is just a hole that someone made
Every hole was made to fill
And every heart can feel it still–
Our nature hates a vacuum
This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain
There is more
More than all this pain
More than all the falling down
And the getting up again
There is more
More than we can see
From our tiny vantage point
In this vast eternity
There is more.
Andrew Peterson, “More”
For the believer, death is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. There is more. The last episode of the first book of the Bible recounts two funerals. Genesis begins with “in the beginning” and ends with “in a coffin in Egypt.” God began by speaking life and beauty into the world, but man’s sinful rebellion brought death and decay. We see the great distance man has fallen. Death seems to have gained the upper hand. We might be tempted to despair over how things have turned out. But this is not the last word.
The famous statement of God’s sovereignty in Gen 50:20, “what you intended for evil, God meant for good” is one of grace and promise. Man’s evil is not the last word. God’s goodness is the last word. What man has experienced and intended for evil in his fallen, sinful rebellion, God has worked for good by sending a redeemer in the person of His Son, Jesus.
We see this explicitly in Acts 2 as Peter declares,
“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Acts 2:23-24
This is the great exchange in the gospel; Jesus who bore our sins, Jesus who through our evil intentions and actions, brings us forgiveness, mercy, and life. This is the last word! Don’t let sin and death be the last word in your life. Jesus came to give life and life to the full.
Join us this Lord’s Day, July 29, as we conclude our conversations from the Book of Beginnings and consider how God always speaks the last word — a word of redeeming grace to ruined sinners. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.