The Spring After Fall & Winter — Funeral Homily for Raymond “Ray” Burgess, 84

The signs of the fall are all around us. The farmers’ fields are cut down to stubble. The weather is growing cold and frosty. Our days are getting shorter and shorter. A winter approaches, and soon all will be buried under snow. And on this fall day, we gather to pray for and bury Ray.

I hear the farmers report that their fields have produced a fruitful yield. They raised a bunker crop this year which will go forth to feed and help thousands of people. This is like the fruitfulness of Ray’s life, seven living-children, nineteen grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, who live on as a blessing to the world. But we know that after the time of harvest comes the sharp and penetrating cold.

Ray’s children tell me about his dedicated love for them and their children, how he has put family first and devoted his time to them. So tomorrow’s first day of the deer hunt will be lonelier without him, and Ray will be missed at the family Christmas this year. That is something to mourn. It is sad to be parted from one another in this way. Tears are natural and wholesome at times like this. Yet, we need not grieve like those who have no hope.

Imagine if our world somehow forgot about the cycle of the seasons. What if everyone misplaced the valuable knowledge that fall and winter lead to spring? How would people react to this end of the world around us? Covid-19 would quickly become a secondary news story, and grocery stores would sell out of lots more than toilet paper. We would look at all of the discolored fallen leaves, the skeletal trees, and the dwindling of the light each day with great alarm. People would hopelessly ask, “Everything is dying — what will we do — what will happen to us?” But of course, this is not the first fall or winter in our lives, and we have seen before what happens next, so we need not be afraid.

Today we gather here to pray for and bury a man who died two days short of his eighty-fifth year. But we gather in this place, within this church, because of a man who died almost two thousand years ago and who two days later rose again. This sad season of dying is not the end of the world. As winter is conquered by the spring, death is conquered by Christ. This fact of Jesus’ resurrection has changed this world and, if God’s will be done, it would transform our lives. Jesus Christ is the way, the only way, for our salvation, and so we entrust Ray’s soul into the Lord’s merciful hands, with love for Ray and hope that we all shall enjoy Ray’s company again in the coming springtime of this world.

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