In a perfect world, we wouldn’t be here today.
In a perfect world, parents don’t bury their children.
In a perfect world, people don’t die in their 20's.
In a perfect world, infections do not flare up and kill a person.
In a perfect world, children are not left without one of their parents.
In a perfect world, these things just wouldn’t happen.
But we do not live in a perfect world. Not by a long shot. This world that we occupy is broken, and you don’t have to look very hard to see it. Generally, it’s right in front of you–almost on a daily basis. Oh, and lest you think I am talking about the images you get through your television and computer and smart phones...you know, the images and stories of natural disasters, of famines, of murders, of robberies, and other such news items...let me say this, while those things do show the brokenness of our world, you and I know we don’t have to look at such things to see it. Evidence is right here, in this room. It’s among you in your relationships and how they play out. You see it not only in your life, but in the life of your friends and your family. You see how seemingly senseless things happen. You see how people struggle and work only to have things happen which set them back time and again and again.
Those of you who knew Jon knew this to be the case with his life particularly in the last several years. I met Jon eight years ago when I started serving this congregation, and around me, he was always quiet, unassuming, not willing to say too much or enter into too much deep conversation. He generally seemed to be a happy-go-lucky sort of guy. Shortly after I got here, he approached me about doing a wedding for him and Stephanie. I remember well the day that took place. He was truly happy. He was excited and full of joy. With the exuberance of youth and marrying someone he truly loved, the world seemed full of possibilities, full of potential, full of the thought they could accomplish whatever they dreamed of.
But it was not to be. Life became a constant struggle for Jon. He’d get a job. Generally, he was a hard worker, but he performed manual labor. And sometimes, when you work manual labor, your body takes a beating. Jon’s did. He required several surgeries, and surgeries plus recovery time meant an inability to work. An inability to work meant an inability to get paid. An inability to get paid meant an inability to pay bills, and that makes life tough. Really tough, especially when you are trying to provide for a family. Jon seemed to catch a break. Just when he’d get a job, something happened where he got hurt. It was a vicious, vicious cycle, and it cost him–it cost him dearly.
In a perfect world, your body doesn’t break down when you are working.
In a perfect world, parents can provide for their children.
In a perfect world, bills get paid and families enjoy plenty.
In a perfect world, relationships don’t get broken.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. Jon experienced all of those things, and it hurt him deeply. Life spun out of control. He made some poor decisions. Things caught up with him, and even his body spun out of control. In a one in a million chance, he developed an infection that took his life. And so, we are here today, grieving. Grieving the loss of a man all too soon. Grieving the loss of potential. Grieving the loss of a second chance. Grieving the fact that we live in a broken, broken world.
And the sad part to this tale is the very fact that we have been unable to fix this broken world. Despite all the technological/scientific advances; despite the billions of dollars spent to end poverty and hunger and cancer and depression and give us protection; despite the insights into human behavior and psychology and the medications we can now get for such matters, we still haven’t come close to fixing what is wrong with the world. And so we grieve that we cannot even fix this broken, broken world.
And sometimes, at such times, we ask ourselves, "Is this it? Are we destined to live in this broken, broken world with no hope of things getting better? Are we destined to stay on that horrible treadmill of struggle without the possibility of fixing things?
No. That would be called despair. Some people accept this as a possibility, but people of faith do not.
People of faith cling to something that sometimes fades, something that sometimes becomes extremely faint, something that sometimes seems to disappear altogether, but when looked for is found. And sometimes when it is found, it blossoms into a solid foundation on which our lives are founded–a foundation which helps us walk through this broken, broken world. That something is called hope.
For you see, hope is the eternal voice of the Church. It is the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Christians believe that Jesus entered into this broken, broken world to show that God loves it; God cherishes it; God wishes to save it and redeem it and bring it into a new place, a place of beauty, a place of perfection. Because we as human beings cannot fix this broken, broken world, God set in motion a plan to redeem it and restore it into what it should be. The major step in this process was sending God’s only begotten Son, Jesus the Christ, into the world–not to condemn the world but to save it. And how did Jesus do it? Jesus, took on our flesh. Jesus took on our blood. Jesus suffered just like you and I suffer. Jesus died, just like you and I will die. Jesus went through agony to show us that God understands our suffering. God knows what it means to lose a child. God knows what it means to be battered and bloody and bruised. God knows what it means to do everything right and still find yourself hated and despised. Yes, God knows our suffering and our pain, but there was more to it than this. There was the resurrection. There was the gift of eternal life and the promise of more to come.
The disciple John described what is to come in the words of Revelation 21-the text we read just a few moments earlier, and in this text, he paints a picture of what will happen on that day when God fixes this broken, broken world: the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Everything that caused suffering; everything that caused death; everything that caused hurt and pain and agony will be taken away, and God will rule over all with peace; with justice; with mercy; and with love. These things are trustworthy and true for a person of faith. And in this place, God will gather all the saints of every time and place. God will gather Jonathan and Tiffany and all those who have gone before. God will reunite us with them, and we will live in a world as it should be. This is our hope! A hope that Jonathan now experiences.
"But," you may object, "how does this help us now? How does it make this world any better? How does this help us deal with our grief
and our sorrow
and our pain
and our suffering
and our difficulty
and our troubles?
Are we just supposed to sit and wait for all of this pie in the sky? What about right here and right now?
People of faith do not just hope for this reality–they try to live it. People of faith believe God is present with them now. People of faith believe that God dwells with us now. People of faith believe God empowers us to bring that reality to a world that desperately needs it. People of faith believe that God uses them–their hands, their fingers–to wipe the tears from people’s eyes now. To show compassion now. To show mercy now. To bring justice now. To do all of these things imperfectly, but as a fore-taste of the hope which is to come.
Today, we grieve in an imperfect world. We grieve the loss of a loved one and friend, but God has empowered us to wipe each other’s tears this day and in the days to come. God has made His presence known to us through Jesus Christ. God has painted a picture of a reality in which we will one day share when this broken world becomes perfect. And so, yes, we grieve, but we do not despair. Instead, we live in hope. Amen.