By Paul Black
PEORIA – It is the shortest verse in the Bible and yet one of the most powerful. Jesus wept.
Bishop Jonathan Keaton used the text of Lazarus’ death and resurrection to point to how Jesus joins us in our grief even when we are feeling pain and loss.
“Jesus’ love for Lazarus tells me something about your loved ones,” Keaton told family members who gathered for the 2014 Memorial Service at annual conference. “Our Lord has the same love for your loved one as he had for Lazarus….Weep Jesus, weep on till we learn from your tears again and again, till we see again and again that you love us with a perfect love, a ‘love that will not let us go.’”
Keaton shared the story of he and his wife Beverly expecting their first child. “A healthy baby was on the way. Better still, we had health insurance,” he said. “Soon, our joy turned to sorrow. The insurance company refused to pay the expenses of her pregnancy and hospital costs of having our baby (because it was) a pre-existing condition. We purchased health insurance after she got pregnant.”
Bishop Keaton related that he had responsibility for officiating at the funerals of Bishop Sheldon Deucker and his wife, Marjorie, who died in 2011 and 2012 respectively. “I wept over their homegoing,” Keaton recalled. “Bishop Deucker asked me to dry my tears in a letter addressed to me about death, resurrection and his last wishes.”
“Jonathan, tell them we’re Easter people…health issues aren’t the full story of our days of sickeness…our faith is being renewed every day,” Deucker wrote. And, referring to his wife’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, Duecker said, “tell them that Marge’s death and dying is not the full story of today. Tell them she’ll rise again that the family will be together after the resurrection.”
Keaton told the families present, “before your loved one died, there was already a pre-existing condition waiting to be activated. ‘They will rise again.’ So will you and me. As death gives life to a ‘will’; so death triggers a resurrection.”
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Keaton added, “For every Good Friday, there is an Easter.”
“On the Last Day, “death will be swallowed up in victory.” And “weeping that endured for the night” will give way “to joy in the morning.”
Read Bishop Keaton's sermon...