"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
Monday, November 5, 2012
The below was presented at my grandfather's funerary memorial service on November 5, 2012 in Dowling Park, FL.
Some people follow in the footsteps of their elders. It seems I have somewhat followed in the pulpits of my grandfather, studying theology, preaching, and finally standing at the very pulpit where he collapsed before dying just over 24 hours later.
When I went to college, I practically lived with my grandparents for a while. I remember asking him questions about scripture and theology and when I went off to graduate school, I remember him even coming to me with a few points to discuss. Apropos of that relationship, I think it appropriate for me to share at this funeral-memorial, a scripture with which I struggle. The words are printed in the bulletin, 1 Corinthians 15:55:
The victory looks apparent and I know exactly where the sting is. It is in my heart. It is in the first few pews. It is in the hearts and minds of all of us here, all of us who never imagined we had so little time left with him.
In the sermon my grandfather was preaching when he collapsed, he was going to describe this sting-victory problem in an oft-told story about a nonexistent painting. The painting is of a chess match. One of the players has only one piece left, whereas the other, sinister-looking character has the obvious piece-advantage. This fictional painting is entitled, "Checkmate."
But the title of this painting is misleading, because the lone king on the board still has moves left. And I fully believe God's work--love--through my grandfather has not and will not stop at death. The grave has no victory when he lives on in us, in our hearts, our minds, and our memories. The sting is still there, but the grave is robbed of the victory.