The following is the homily I shared for Jake’s funeral this past Saturday. It is shared here with the blessing and permission of his family.
I think it is important to state the obvious: none of us choose to be here. We want Jake back with us, feisty and fun, sometimes infuriating, but with us and not here in this sanctuary on this Saturday morning.
And we hurt. The pain we feel is love: our love for Jake, for his family, and for ourselves. This is grief and it is good and appropriate that we grieve.
After Jesus and Martha had this discussion we just heard read in our Gospel, Jesus went to see Lazarus, just as we went to see Jake yesterday. And when he came to his side Jesus wept. Jesus knew that this is not the end of our story, he knew that Lazarus, like all of us, would live eternally in him. But Jesus wept because he hurt, because Martha and Mary, and all their friends were hurting, overcome with sadness because their brother and friend was no longer with them. When Jake died I know that Jesus wept.
It is good and right for us to grieve.
But we are here too to give thanks for Jake’s life and to celebrate the time that we have had with him. It was here in this church that he was baptized by Father Larry and here too he was confirmed alongside some of you.
Elizabeth and I knew Jake somewhat from J2A, but over the course of this week many of you have shared your memories of Jake and we have all gotten to know him better. Almost everyone commented on his infectious grin. Kelley and others shared how he could sweet talk people into just about anything, from buying Kool Aide in the store to getting the key to climb up the church bell tower. On that occasion one of you shared how he ran on ahead, climbing faster than anyone else, laughing and calling for everyone to catch up. He was energy personified.
Many of you got to know him best on the mission trip where Jake and Eric, Jarric as they were called together, kept everyone laughing even if not entirely focused on work. Several people noted his willingness, his eagerness to push boundaries. “If there was a DO NOT sign,” one of you wrote, “then Jake was there to do it!” But most of all, everyone remembers his energy, his laugh, and the fun he brought to even the most boring of youth group meetings.
The laughter has been stilled yet it will always echo in your hearts. This is where we are today, smiling through our tears, happy for our memories of the past, yet sad that our plans and dreams for the future with Jake have to be set aside. We don’t grieve for the life we have lived with Jake, we celebrate that, but rather we grieve the life that is before us without Jake. But this is the joy of the Gospel, that this world, this life here on this earth is not all that there is. We will have life with Jake.
This world is a broken place. We are no longer in the Garden of Eden, rather we live a world where infections, cancer, violence, and illness affect us all. Like all of us, Jake felt the illness of this world and ultimately it took him from us. But we know and claim with Martha that our brother Jake will be raised again to eternal life. This is nothing less than the very heart of the Gospel: Jesus came into this broken world in order to bring the ultimate healing, eternal life.
And when we are all raised again with Jake and all those we love who have gone before, we will be whole and complete, perfected in a way that would never be possible in this world, but which is the reality of the world to come. Paul compares this body to a seed, like a grain of wheat, when it is planted a new glorious body arises. So I am confident that Jake is sporting his glorious body and gorgeous smile, perhaps even playing soccer!!
But while this world is not perfect, it is ours, given to us by God, and we still have work to do here. That means we need everyone here, to help us remember Jake, to share his infectious smile and energy.
Jake’s life and his death have and will continue to have an incredible impact on our lives. Right now I know that you feel completely helpless, that there is nothing left to do, that there is nothing we can do. But that isn’t true. What remains for us to do is to ensure that the legacy that Jake has left in this world is one of grace and love. This is an incredibly precious gift that is left for us. So this is our choice this morning: Let us choose to celebrate Jake’s life in the promise and knowledge of Christ’s love for him and for us.
Jesus told his disciples that he would give us his peace, “a peace that the world cannot give.” That peace is not the end of suffering and death, but rather the peace of Christ is the confidence of knowing that death has been swallowed up in victory.
O God, whose ways are hidden, and whose works are most wonderful, who makes nothing in vain and loves all that you have made; Comfort your servants, whose hearts and broken and grant that we may so love and serve you in this life that together with Jake we may obtain the fullness of your promises in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.