Christ is our only Hope

Bishop Seraphim : Homily
Christ is our only Hope
Funeral Service
20 February, 1993

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

As we come today to lay to rest our brother n, who has fallen asleep, we, who are left behind, are grieving. However, it is clear that we are not grieving as those who have no hope (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13). Over and over again we are assured that our hope rests clearly and squarely on Him. The Lord is our hope. We live our life for Him and in Him.

At this time, particularly in North American society, because people are so afraid of death and so uncomfortable with it, it is customary to hide from it (or at least to try to hide from it). Now we have either funerals where the coffin is kept closed or even worse, funerals where the person who has died is not even present at his own funeral. Already that person has already been put away somewhere. This is not the way Christians should be behaving. This body, which is in our midst which we are lovingly putting to rest today, is the body of n, who, Sunday after Sunday, was sitting in this front row where his family are sitting today. His body has been a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Lord, the Giver of Life, breathed life into him. Despite his mistakes and whatever his sins may have been, nevertheless, n was faithful. It is for you and for me who are now left behind, with our various memories and experiences of him, to pray for him because we still love him. It is for us to continue to pray for him and we continue to pray for him that the Lord will have mercy on him and forgive him his sins.

We live in a world which is full of ideas and attitudes which are not those which the Lord wants us to have and live for. It is hardly likely that any human being can survive a whole lifetime without being poisoned at least somewhat by these ideas. However, the Lord is not expecting us so much by our own strength to be pure from start to finish. He shows His love for us because He does not expect us to do all this without His help. If we do sin, if we do fall from His love and His Grace, if we do betray Him from time to time in our life, He expects us to repent. He expects us to say that we are sorry for our sins, for our rebellion, for our selfishness. He expects us also to do something about making it right again, and to turn away from it. Thus it is necessary for you and for me now at this time and in the coming weeks and months to continue to pray for our brother n. In praying for him, we will work on prayerfully forgiving him for anything that he did or said which hurt us deeply. Not only that, but also we will ask for his forgiveness for our behaviour – whatever we may have done or said to hurt him, to cause him to fall into temptation. As we have begun today and the day before, let us continue to ask the Lord to have mercy on him, to forgive his sins and to have mercy on us and forgive our sins.

The whole point is that, as our Lord Himself said : “‘God is not the God of the dead, but of the living’” (Matthew 22:32). It is His love which gives life and maintains life. What love we have in Christ for each other is not broken and ended by the death of the body. The Lord promises us that if we are faithful and if we live in Him a life of repentance, then there will come a life of resurrection – eternal life which does not end – just as we have been praying today. Love in Jesus Christ keeps us all alive and united with one another even though our bodies will get old and die. We do not end up separated from one another, because if we follow Him and live a life of repentance, we all will continue to live in Him. The Lord truly does not want us to die in darkness, to die in rebellion, to die in our own stubbornness. It is we who condemn ourselves to death by our own pride and stubbornness and rebellion by separating ourselves from His love. It is we who do it. The Lord wants us to live in Him.

Let us today, as we must always do every time we are faced with death, take this opportunity to remember that our lives are short. Time is short for repentance ; time is short for doing good and being good towards each other. Let us make the most of this life in doing good and being good to each other, being reconciled to each other, forgiving one another, encouraging one another and strengthening one another so that we may have clear hope of participating in the victory of Jesus Christ over sin and death. May we glorify Him, together with the unoriginate Father, and the all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.