A Beautiful Thing

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen“The requiem mass, a mass honoring the deceased, is usually sung on the day of burial.”[1]It is a worship service set to music “and it dates back to the late 2nd century.”[2]So you may want to consider that today you are attending your own funeral.

Matthew 26:6-13

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

“The requiem mass, a mass honoring the deceased, is usually sung on the day of burial.”[1]

It is a worship service set to music “and it dates back to the late 2nd century.”[2]

So you may want to consider that today you are attending your own funeral.

This musical form of the liturgy for the dead flourished in the 14th century and as you have heard this morning it is alive and well today. Rutter composed this requiem in 1985 and it was dedicated to his father.

The choir has been rehearsing for a long time and last week as we began to draw near to this Sunday the message and the music we are hearing today got me thinking about death.

It is not a subject we willingly talk about until circumstances require us to address it. As a preacher it is an important part of my work and the work of the church.

We had a funeral here yesterday and we had one on Friday and there will be more funerals in the weeks ahead.

This requiem has even got me thinking about my own death and asking the question, am I prepared for it. Please don’t think I’m being morbid here, I’m just being honest.

Have you ever asked yourself that question? Am I prepared for death?

Practically am I prepared for death? Are my affairs in order?

Spiritually am I prepared for death? Am I living in the promises of Jesus?

As I was thinking about this I decided to pull out the file I have in my desk that contains funeral plans.

The file contains the funeral plans that parishioners have filled out and given to me and it also contains mine as well as my wife’s. I wanted to look at what I had done in preparation for my own funeral and see if I wanted to make any changes.

It has been awhile since I filled it out. I was curious about my scripture selections and music choices and I even made a few changes. I consider it a working document with the hope it won’t be needed for a long time but I want to be prepared. I want to be prepared when it is time for my ashes to go into the columbarium and my resurrected body to Jesus.

Preparing for death is a faithful thing to do and in the church, we don’t prepare alone.

Have you considered that you being here today, in worship, is part of your preparation for death? Every time you pray, every time you hear a sermon, every time you read scripture, every time you do something in the name of Jesus in the world you are preparing for death.

For most of you death is in the background, on the edges of your daily life. You have so much more to think about and worry about and deal with. But for others of you, death is not in the background. You are living it today and you will live it again tomorrow.

It is like the phrase you will hear in the next movement of the requiem. Listen for it in the male voices. It is the steady drum beat of reality – 4 beats per measure – steady, consistent – in the midst of life, we are in death – we are in death – we are in death.

We can feel the beat even when we pretend it isn’t there.

Even when we don’t want it to be there.

Even when we are blind to it because of what is going on around us.

The drum beat of death is getting louder in Matthew 26. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus tells his followers – “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

But they don’t really know and they don’t want to hear this news as the drum beat continues.

He then finds himself in the house of Simon the leper. At a gathering of people. Followers of Jesus. A woman shows up, unnamed but not ignored. She comes to Jesus with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.

The only two people in the room who understand what is happening, who feel the drum beat of death getting louder and louder, who smell the ointment as it slowly engulfs Jesus in a fragrant blanket of calm and peace are Jesus and the woman who is there to help Jesus prepare.

The disciples are blind, deaf and numb to what is happening in this moment. The refrain is beating louder – in the midst of life, we are in death. But the disciples can only respond with shocking indignation. They were angry and said, “Why this waste? For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.”

Preparing for death is not a waste. Doing something extravagant for someone else as they prepare for death is not a waste.

Jesus, who shares our humanity,

  • knows that in the midst of life, we are in death,
  • he invites this unnamed woman to help him prepare for his own death,
  • and he shows us how to prepare for ours.

Jesus redirects the conversation to where it needs to be. He responds to his disciples;

Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me. Other translations say she has done a beautiful thing and I like that for what she does is a beautiful thing. Whenever and however we can prepare for death it is a beautiful thing. It is a faithful thing. It is an honest thing to do.

This is what Jesus means when he says – for you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.

When death occurs there is a separation. The one who is loved is physically gone. No more visits. No more phone calls. An empty place at the table and it is hard. It is painful and we know that in the midst of life, we are in death.

But the death of Jesus prepares us for something more. Something new.

By his death we are invited to prepare for our death.

By his death we are healed.

By his death we come to understand and to trust that death no longer has dominion over us.

As we prepare, our hearts are changed, our spirits are strengthened, we are at peace and realize that we come to understand that in the midst of death, we are in life, we are in life, we are in the resurrection and the life.

We are in Jesus.

This is the drumbeat of salvation. This is the steady 4/4 time of God’s love and mercy.

This is what we prepare for and it is a beautiful thing. It is a beautiful thing.

Thanks be to God

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Aaron Green ThoughtCo. The Requiem Mass

[2] Ibid

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