Jesus now rules both realms—that of the dead and the living.
We who are alive can depend upon him to watch over us since he is Lord of the living. When we come to the time for death, we are changing realms but not Lords! He rules the realm of the dead.
In Christ Alone!
One of my favorite modern hymns is Stuart Townend’s “In Christ Alone.” At my ordination to the diaconate in the Anglican Church in North America, the choir sang it. I was “setting the table” for the Bishop to celebrate communion. The pipe organ boomed out that hymn suddenly, and I was frozen there in worship of Christ at the table. I was roused into action shortly because there was work to be done. However, I’ve never grown tired of those words. The fourth verse is powerful.
No guilt in life, no fear in death.
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.
Committal at the Grave
I often used the 1928 Prayer Book in my ministerial practice as a Presbyterian clergyman. One blind lady commented at a funeral, “I think I heard echoes of the Prayer Book in your committal service.” She was right. There really is no guide for practical services—funerals, praying for the sick, counseling people in need. I fell back on the book I had owned since I was a teenager—The 1928 Book of Common Prayer.
The words of committal are traditional and Biblical. I recall vividly the first time I used those words at a funeral. I began,
“For as much as it has pleased Almighty God to call out of the world the soul of our beloved brother ___, we commit his body to the ground… .”
I didn’t get to add the rest right away because his daughter shrieked in horror at the thought of leaving her father’s body in the ground. I went on to add, “in sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life… .” I don’t think she heard the rest after “commit his body to the ground.”
I have slightly altered the words since that first time. I now say, “We commit his/her body to the Lord in sure and certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life… .” No further shrieks have since occurred.
People today do not have the knowledge tradition gives. After you have heard the words of committal several hundred times at funerals, you know what is coming afterward. You sit and bask in the security of your loved one awaiting the resurrection, and not feeling you are abandoning him or her to the cold desolate soil of the grave.
Shakespeare’s Grave at Stratford on Avon (left); an unmarked field stone (right)
It doesn’t matter with the Lord whether we are famous or common. He will keep us safe in death as he did in life.
The Dead are Safe in Jesus’s Presence
Jesus commands the realm of the dead, so nothing happens to our loved ones he does not decide. He is the holder of the keys and Hades (in its local sense). The grave is also in his safe keeping. None of the sheep given him is lost ever.
Revelation 14:13 sums up our loved one’s state now—
Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. They rest from their labors, and their works follow them.
Lord of the Dead,
You hold our loved ones in Your safe keeping.
They are never lost or never again in harm’s way.
You watch over them and will raise their bodies on the Last Day.
Until that day we can rest in the assurance
You control our destiny and theirs.
Keep me in peace when I am anxious about anyone who has died in You.
About those who didn’t seem to have a strong faith in You,
Help me to trust in You to always do what is right.
I do not know the transactions of a person’s soul at the end of their lives.
In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
© 2018 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved