Memorial Service, Jerry Liddell
Sometimes in the midst of our sadness and our busyness there are quiet moments of joy. We wake up early and walk outside and the stars are shining in the morning sky. We hear the voice of someone we love, calling from another room.
Or maybe like Jerry we’re helping someone with a computer or we’re taking care of our daughter or we’re just staying home and going about our routines and for a moment we feel happy and free. We feel like ourselves. We are fully alive.
This is what heaven is like and in fact this is why we believe in heaven. Because we’ve glimpsed it, here and now. We believe in the afterlife because we believe in this life.
When we get to heaven we will recognize it.
“The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” Saint Paul says to the Romans, “and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may be glorified with him.”
Or earlier in Romans: “if, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”
It’s the “if, then” that’s so reassuring, and real, and right.
If we have experienced God in our own lives, in our own spirit, in what moves inside us in these moments of joy and these moments of peace—and we have, we have–and if the God we have experienced in these moments is a God of love and tenderness and forgiveness–as He is–then why would that love ever stop? Why would death put an end to it? If God is God, there is nothing that can separate us from him, and death is not the end and death is not to be feared and death is not what defines us. Grace defines us. Love defines us.
Jerry struggled with his health and Melanie and Lindsay struggled and it’s been a sad and difficult few years. And yet this, too, is a sacred moment, this, too, is a glimpse of heaven, because it lifts us out of our trivial lists and chores, it reminds us of how fleeting life is, and even the silence is grace, even the darkness. Because finally it will dissolve. First it dissolves all our falseness and pretentiousness. There’s this terrifying sense of falling. But at the bottom, deeper even than the darkness and the silence, there is this love and this beauty and this meaning we can’t talk about and can never know in the abstract but only experience.
We name this beauty Jesus. We name this beauty Christ.
And this is what heaven is like. It’s like this, this moment: all of us gathered and all of us present, all of us together, and there is a tenderness, and a gentleness, a sense of all the goodness and the love there is in us, and a sense of the mystery, of the great mystery of our lives, of all of our lives, of how precious we all of us are.
And now Jerry is inside that mystery and inside that love forever. He is safe and he is free and he is fully himself, fully alive, and all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.