They think it’s all over; well it is now.
Easter Evening approaches– the transitory mess of chocolate eggs wrappings, bunny cards and Easter flowers grace the day’s close. The church’s Easter garden is already wilting.
Easter has come and gone.
In John’s gospel the dying words of Jesus are: it is finished. It may appear strange to be considering them on Easter Day but they point to the significance of his resurrection.
I wonder how many people die, content. For them life has come to a perfect conclusion with all ends tied up. They have lived a neatly packaged life which can be boxed up and put away.
I have had that impression from some funeral services I have attended and certainly the favoured alternative – a celebration of the departed’s life. But I wonder.
They were watching him struggling to keep his eyes open. The gaps between awareness and seeming oblivion were getting longer. They were thinking; it’s over and then Jesus said it for them:
This is the end. I am on my way. What Jesus in fact says is: it is complete.
No more needed to be done. What had been said was all that could be said.
He accepted his dying moment.
Death qualifies us to be known as human. It defines our nature. It is the context in which we live, breathe and have our being.
If there were no death there would be no passing on- of compassion, genes, experience, knowledge or even faith. Without death there is no continuity, no evolution, and no life.
So what more can resurrection add that is not present in the natural process of life – death –life?
Here’s a thought. Have you noticed what is not often acknowledged in our funerals? It’s the absence of any talk about a wasted life, the things left undone, and the sense of a life that had not been lived completely. This truth about any of us hovers in the shadows of the occasion. It broods and breeds the sadness which is more than grief. But it is not spoken of, at least not in public.
The funeral orator may make much of the little we have done with our life.
We, as the years mount up may hope that our children may do more, have more, achieve more than we have.
But these are fragile hopes; with too much evidence to the contrary to give us any sort of certainty and without the gift of Resurrection they are hopeless.
What Resurrection offers through death is completion. It signs off what our life has been.
Our little story is not ended with our death. It is part of something greater.
We cannot know from the perspective of this existence all the significance of our life. There should be no judgement of others at their dying by us for we cannot know all that their life has amounted to.
Their life is not only over but, through the mercy of God, complete.
In these dying words Jesus relaxes. He has done his Father’s work. There is no more day. The night has come. But he can now, chill out. The next move is God’s.
This prayer is now placed among those that can be used at funerals but it began as an evening prayer and has the touch of Easter Evening about it.
Support us all the day long
of this troublous life,
until the shadows lengthen
and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
the fever of life is over,
and our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy,
grant us safe lodging,