September 13, 2015
Death is always a tragedy. No matter how we paint it, spin it, no matter how we affirm the beauty of the new life the dead may now live, death always remains a loss from our present sight, something unknown. Death is always something that the living we do our best to avoid and fight against with every ounce of our being.
And yet, death is an integral part of life. The Apostle Paul writes in I Corinthians 15, "Unless the seed dies, it remains only a seed — and not the plant or flower or tree it has been designed to be." Until we die, we cannot inherit full, abundant, and eternal life .
So we have come here today to dedicate a Memorial to our dead, a place where our loved ones, and we ourselves, may find a place of quiet, a citadel of solice, a resting place forever. A place where our family and friends may come, reflect, and remember those whom they love.
And the reason we do it is because we believe that death is never the final word. Those who have gone before us live in the presence of Eternal God, and the memory of their lives and witness of their faith live on now in us. The seeds of their life are planted firmly in the soil of our souls. Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln: "it is up to us, the living, to make sure that these dead have not died in vain." There isn't a better place to make that remembrance than this holy place, this Good Shepherd Columbarium and Memorial Garden. But, we have come here today to do more than that.
We are here today in a place where the carillon bells toll to mark the passage of time. We are here in a place where the carillon plays sacred hymns reminding us that all time belongs ultimately to God. Convinced that our days past, present, and future belong to God we can with confidence claim the presence of God for us and for all of the dead in Christ.
We are here in a place where giggles, shouts of joy, cries of fear and sobs of sadness echo from children’s playground over there. It is here that their voices, voices of the future remind us that we are tied to those who have preceded us to the Church triumphant. We stand upon the victories of those who preceded us and endure their failures as surely as they patiently persevered in the events of their days never losing faith in the God who sustains all living creatures. In this place, we are reminded that we make our own journey, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
If I may again reference and paraphrase from Abraham Lincoln, In his Gettysburg address, he said, "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. Those who have struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."
So, this place is not dedicated merely for the dead. It is also for us the living, to be dedicated here to their unfinished work. It was work for which they prayed, worshiped, and served. It was work for which they fought overwhelming obstacles. So, their work becomes ours. Today, we dedicate ourselves to the great task remaining before us of devotion –the worship and service of the one Triune God known for all time as the great I Am.
Let us consecrate ourselves to being the people whose maker is God. Let us use this place as a space for remembering the utter, and complete faithfulness of God. Let us dedicate ourselves to the work they began.