Last Saturday afternoon was a warm, sunny day, full of promise that spring was finally here. Spencer, Miriam, and I were putting up the awning over our back porch, the threat of heavy snows that would damage it now gone and the need for a place of cooling shade growing. With the awning half-draped over the frame, we were enjoying the weather and laughing at our miscues in trying to put the heavy canvas in its proper position.
I left for a moment to get some needed wrenches from the tool shed to finish the job. As I returned, behind the part of the awning still hanging down I could hear that Miriam was upset. She was repeatedly saying, "Oh, no! I'm so sorry!" Thinking somehow Spencer had been injured, I hurried around the green canvas. Spencer was unharmed but stood there stunned as he looked at his mother. Miriam was on the phone with grief, pain, and tears upon her face.
She was hearing the news that our brother-in-law, Jon, had died from a motorcycle accident that afternoon.
How quickly the lives of those we love have changed. Jon was a faithful believer in Christ, husband and father, and servant in his church and community. He and his lovely and devoted wife, Jennifer, had just celebrated twenty-nine years of marriage earlier this month. They have three beautiful, talented daughters who have always been the apple of their father's eye. Too suddenly death had come and snatched away this man whose life always overflowed with energy, joy, love, generosity, and care toward others. A fun-loving man, you could not be around Jon long without smiling, without noticing that twinkle in his eye when he was about to make a quip or you were discovering one of his good-natured pranks.
In the early evening, after much weeping and informing other family members of the news, we finished the work of the awning and sat under it talking. As we did so, all the signs of life around us - the daffodils blooming in the edge of the woods, the dancing butterflies newly released from their long winter imprisonment, the chattering chickadees and titmice enjoying longer days in the burning bush - seemed emptied of their hope and promises. Each remembrance of Jon and his family brought sharp pain, heavy sighs, and more sobs. Having just spent a delightful Lord's day with them a few weeks ago, it was hard to believe that in a moment he was gone.
Today we are gathered for the funeral. We will remember and cling to the hope that there will be another day of the Lord, when in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the heavenly canopy will be rolled back and a trumpet of victory will sound. Then our Savior, who wept at funerals, who gave his body over to be broken, whose tender sympathies for his people never fail, will come. He will make all things new and whole and right. Every tear will be wiped away. Incomprehensibly, every aspect of our pain that brought forth each of these tears will be seen to have, like the scars on his own hands and feet, an eternal weight of glory. In the distress of bewildering providence, only faith in the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world can sustain.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.