August 7: The Burial of Bob Cairns

The Rev. Joseph Peters-Mathews is the vicar of St. Hilda St. Patrick. This sermon was preached in response to 2 Corinthians 4.16-5.9 based on the manuscript below.

In the name of
the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In his letter to the Church at Corinth today,
Paul is dealing with his own anxiety.
Paul saw Jesus
on the road to Damascus
and was converted to following him.
At this point,
Paul is expecting
Jesus to come back
any day then.
Or any day now.
What will happen
if he dies before that?
He tells the church,
as he said at the beginning of the chapter
“We do not lose heart.”

Paul knows
what it’s like
to be around death.
Death has been a part of life
since humanity fell,
since our bodies became corruptible
since we came from the earth
and to the earth
we will return.
How then
should he be prepared
for the persecutions
he’s already starting to face?
How then
should he be prepared
for a possible death before it’s his time?

As we’re here today,
remembering Bob,
we may be wondering
the same thing.
What comes next?
Is Bob okay?
Will we see him again,
will we get to know him
through our lives
as time marches on?
Writing to the church at Corinth,
and writing to the church now,
Paul begins
“We do not lose heart.”
Even though our outer nature is wasting away,
our inner nature is being renewed day by day.
… we look not at what can be seen
but at what cannot be seen;
for what can be seen is temporary,
but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Paul here,
talking about wasting away,
isn’t talking about
“an immortal soul
imprisoned in a mortal body
from which it is set free at death.”[1]
Rather, “our inner nature”
is the new life that comes into being
with our relationship to Jesus
when we become new beings.[2]
Our inner nature,
is our relationship with Jesus
that grows day by day
as we grow into the full stature
and likeness of Jesus.
This inner nature,
this relationship with Jesus
is something I knew Bob to have.
One of my earliest champions
one of my biggest encouragers,
Bob’s relationship with Jesus
spoke to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

That too is why we’re here.
That too is
why the Paschal candle is burning,
symbolizing Jesus’ victory over
death and the grave.

Paul writes that the tents of our lives,
these puffs of wind
when compared to the cosmos
pass away.
Paul isn’t concerned
about growing weak in old age,
he’s concerned about whether
we use our days
to share the good news
that Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and to those in the tombs
bestowing life!
These flimsy,
temporal tents,
these bodies the we nourish and sustain
bodies that show us the goodness of God
as we eat and drink and experience pleasure
pass away.
Our lives end,
and the tents are struck.
But that is not the end.

Joined to Jesus in our baptisms,
death is not the end.
Paul writes today
about the tents we have now
becoming buildings
permanent structures
in our ongoing,
ever growing
relationships with Jesus.
Like Jesus tells the disciples
in today’s text from John,
where he’s gone
are many dwelling places,
sometimes translated many mansions.
No more tents,
no more of what we see
passing away before us.

We’re here today
remembering Bob
and celebrating Easter.
Death no longer has dominion,
and death is not the end.
We grieve his loss.
I miss him,
and not being able to see him
for the last 18 months
doesn’t help with that.
But we know
that Christ is raised
and having been joined to his resurrection
we will be too.
We will see Bob again,
in those many mansions,
as we all grow closer to God.

As we are here together remembering Bob,
still in our tents ourselves,
taste and see that the Lord is Good. Amen.

[1]Best, Ernest. Second Corinthians: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 45). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.

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