Brothers and sisters in Christ, friends
and family members of Brianna, Julie and Allen. The text to celebrate the life,
but more importantly, the faith in which Brianna died comes from that Gospel
reading, especially this verse: “For this is the will of my Father that
everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and
I will raise him up on the last day.”
What is God’s will in this tragedy?
There have been many books written. One that has bounced around on various
academic circles has been Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? And
sadly, the author misses any point of hope. Why did her life intertwine with
yours, friends and family members who are here? Why was she allowed to involve
you emotionally with her person, her charm, and her wit, her desires and
passion. Why did she and God allow you to be knit into that relationship only
to be torn apart last week? Why were we allowed as a parish family to enjoy her
presence, sitting right back there in the pew where she sat most every Sunday?
Why were Pastor and I given the privilege of laying the very flesh of Christ
with the bread in her mouth and giving her the very chalice filled with wine
and the blood of Christ? Why? Where is God’s will in such unique happenstances?
Is it all coincidence? And why are you here? Is it only to honor Brianna? Is it
to get some answers yourself? Is it to wrestle with the deeper things of life?
Because isn’t it interesting how we can kind of roll along in life and then
something likes this stops us in our tracks like nothing else. It’s kind of
like a boxer receiving a blow right to the breadbasket, doubling him up and
causing him incapacitation, trying to breathe and grab hold of the reality that
has just struck him. So it has been since last week—for all of us.
And though we will not compare our
meters of emotional struggle, all of us have felt it; hence, why we are all
here. Where’s the will of God? I can tell you unequivocally, the will of God is
not death. It never was and it never has been God’s will. That was brought
about, as was said in the epistle reading, by the man of dust, Adam. I don’t
have to tell you that. You’ve experienced suffering in your own life. You’ve
experienced coming into contact with your fleshliness and sin and having it
revealed to you by someone whom you love dearly and you’ve seen your flesh
express itself in its bold and proud way upon someone else and their reaction
and their countenance as you have brought pain into their life.
We’ve all experienced it, haven’t
we? We know the taste of it and it’s very acrid in our palete. Where is God’s
will? Did He bring her into our lives only to snatch her away to cause us this
pain because of something in our life? There is an interesting book in the Old
Testament called the book of Job, and in it, that very reason is wrestled. Does
God bring evil things into people’s lives because of evil within their life? If
you or I were to judge the things that we see and experience in this life to
determine God’s will toward us, what would be the outcome? For why would He
allow someone whose actions in life that we can see to be very evil to prosper
and to be blessed, as it were? And why could we also see in the very same
stroke someone whose life bears Godliness, graciousness, and love be completely
stricken with pain and suffering and sorrow? That doesn’t make sense. And that
is why God has never chosen to reveal Himself in such a way as through the world’s
goings on as a loving and gracious God, for we will never come up with the
answer. It will always be turned back around on us by the one who continues to
perpetuate this lie about God. That is the evil one in our own logic and
rational mind. We understand a tit for a tat. We understand cause and effect,
but cause and effect explains not why we are gathered here. Grace…grace explains
why we are gathered here. For the will of God has been revealed to you this
afternoon. The will of God is that everyone “who looks on the Son and believes
in Him should have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” That
thumbs its nose at everything that we can analyze and measure in this life. It
drowns it in the waters of baptism, everything that we tried to grab hold of as
to why certain things happen to certain people. This is the faith in which
Brianna lived and died, which you, loving father and mother and family members,
supported her and gave unto her. There’s not a greater gift.
Now, as you can see from the many
things in the back of the church, she loved her University of Texas, her cowboy
boots, the great aspect of Austin compared to her mother city of Houston. But
you also know if you knew her unto whom she laid her hope when she closed her
eyes at night. That is the faith in which we are gathered here to celebrate,
for if we share that faith, the pain that we feel may never go away during this
lifetime, but it will come to an end. And the beautiful young woman whom we
enjoyed to be around shall be in our presence again and we in hers. That is the
hope. That is why our Lord has revealed His will to you. “I will raise him up
again.” That which was tragically crumbled on Fifteenth Street shall not be
ever seen again, but glory filled as you can only remember with more life and
vitality than you can imagine, and that will animate you as well. And you shall
not be apart from her. That is the faith. That is the will of God.
Now, questions about the why of the
accident and the why of at this time and the whys of all the other things that
you and I may have asked and will ask in the future shall not be answered
always in this life. And that’s okay, because we’re saying very loudly in our
gathering here and what we’re proclaiming and singing. We are not God. We are but
beggars here, but beggars who know from whom come their food which nourishes
them in this wilderness for this world is not our home. This world is but going
to end someday, and our home is Heaven. That’s where we’re bound for. That’s
where she is now and that’s where we shall be united with her, singing glorious
praises and enjoying the bliss of such peace where there are no tears. There is
no more shame and there is no more guilt, and the ache that may never leave
your bosom shall finally be assuaged, because the food that sustained Brianna
is the very flesh that was given for the life of Brianna as the text said. “I
am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread,
he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world
is my flesh.” Jesus was never a nebulous ghost but flesh-and-blood God, and He
fed Brianna here. And Brianna was sustained her entire life with such
life-giving flesh, the kind of which Paul wrote about in that second reading,
the flesh that you and I have inherited from this Adam of dust to the new Adam
of eternal life.
So what’s God’s will in this
accident? What’s God’s will in your life? I don’t either plan nor have any idea
of what your life holds. But I do know One who has graciously revealed to you
today what His will is toward Brianna and what His will is toward you. And that
is why we celebrate for we are joined with Brianna in that same will, being
continually acted out within us by God’s Holy Spirit working mightily through
such feeble means of preached word, administered water, and bread and wine.
This is the faith. This is your hope. Do not let go.
In the name of Jesus who fed her,
clothed her, bore her, and brought her home. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.