The Psalmist writes, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…” (Psalm 30:11).
A STRANGE CHOICE of texts for a wedding sermon.
But then again, you were married in a time of mourning and sorrow and grief. The death of your mother and your grandmother overshadowed you. And maybe you thought that your marriage to Douglas would change all of that. Maybe you thought that in going from singleness to marriedness, a spouse would turn your mourning into dancing and undress you of your sackcloth and clothe you with his gladness.
And there were times when it was all of that and more. But it didn’t last long. And now, here you are, only 11 short years later, and you’re right back where you started. Or maybe worse. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls…” (1 Peter 1:24)
In any case, your DANCING has been turned into MOURNING and your GLADNESS has been loosed and you are CLOTHED IN SACKCOTH.
So, let’s start this all over again. The Psalmist writes, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…” (Psalm 30:11).
A GOOD CHOICE of texts for a funeral sermon.
But then again, here you are, and here we are. And none of us feels like dancing. And none of us is clothed with gladness. The shadow of death hangs like a dense cloud over us all.
But still, a good choice for a funeral text because it points us to a new day, a better day, a day that we haven’t come to yet, a day of relief, a day of rest, a day of recovery.
A day of Easter –
when the whole creation that was groaning,
and all the saints in Christ who were heavy laden with grief,
and all the company of heaven who were told to ‘wait,’ ‘be patient,’
all together, as one, cry out with a voice that made the earth quake and tore the temple curtain in two, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Ps. 30:11-12).
The only person among us who can sing this song TODAY however, is the one who’s body lies in the casket, BUT WHO’S SOUL IS WITH THE LORD. At this very moment, he stands before the throne of God, with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, evermore praising Lamb who was slain, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”
The suffering is over, the pain is gone, the darkness has past and a new day has dawned.
Adam’s side has been opened for His beloved Bride and she receives her life from Him.
The Passover Lamb has been slain and His blood marks this saint and death has no dominion over him.
God has led His Israel safely through the Red Sea and drown the enemy and from the ‘distant shore’ their song is heard, “I will sing your praise and not be silent.”
The Son of David has slain Goliath by the five smooth wounds in His hands and feet and side, and as He holds his head high, and those who were huddled in fear erupt in the victory song. “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”
The greater than Jonah has been swallowed up by death only to be vomited up again, because death had no hold on Him… and now all those who belong to Him are swallowed up in His everlasting life.
The Christ who once was slain has burst his three day prison – and all the prisoners of death are set free.
The Good Shepherd has snatched His precious little lamb from the jaws of the wolf from hell by giving Himself in exchange. But on the 3rd day, the wolf had to spit Him out, and all of Jesus’ little lambs are safe and secure in the arms of the One who loves them and who laid down His life for them.
The darkness of death is shattered by the light of the glory of God. And all who have lived by faith, in the darkness of this world of sin and cancer and death, now live in His light and sing: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”
Even in the midst of our sorrow, there is a certain GREAT RELIEF for us in the knowledge that Jesus Christ has promised that “whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16). Our relief is based on our confidence that the Word of Jesus is the Word of God because Jesus is God, and therefore His Word cannot fail, it always does what it says.
Even in the midst of our grief, there is a certain great relief for us in the knowledge that Jesus Christ has turned Doug’s mourning into dancing; and loosed his sackcloth and clothed him with gladness incomprehensible.
What we still wait for, with patience and perseverance in faith, Doug possesses now. The wait is over. The time has come. “Behold, NOW is the favorable time; behold, NOW is the day of salvation.” (2Cor.6:2) There is great relief for us in this.
And that is why, although we grieve and we are not in the mood to dance, we “do not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14).
His body remains right here in this casket and in the ground where it will sleep. It has been through enough. It is time for rest.
But his soul is in heaven, with the Lord. Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise because of their sin and the doors were closed behind them. But by His cross, the 2nd Adam has atoned for all of our sin and the sin of the whole world.
He has thrown open the gates of the city of God
and He ushers in the “countless host who from their labors rest,”
that they may eat from the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God,
“where death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev.2:7; 21:4).
“Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.”
And yet, according to the Holy Scriptures, even Doug’s incomprehensible joy is not completely complete. Even the dead in Christ who are with the Lord, live in a GLORIFIED NOW but NOT YET.
Even as they enjoy the victory that their Lord has won for them, their joy is not complete as long as their body remains in the grave. Even for them, there is a glorious reunion yet to come, when their own body, restored, perfected, glorified, is reunited to their own soul, in one, holy, perfect union of body and soul just as God created us in the beginning. What we by our sin have rent asunder, God, by the body and blood of Christ, will wash, and sanctify and glorify and join together.
From their prophetic watchtower, the prophets see that day that is still to come. Isaiah declares, “Your dead shall live; THEIR BODIES shall also rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!” (Is.26:19). Ezekiel declares, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I will open your graves, O my people. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God when I open your graves and raise you from your graves.” (Ez.37:13)
There is a certain relief for us in the knowledge that even as we commend our dear husband, father, brother in Christ, and friend, to the Lord, that the Lord knows how to deal with death – not just death in general – but with the death of each and every individual saint who has died.
Jesus entered into Baptism and sanctified it and made it the portal through which He brings individuals, one at a time, into His KINGDOM OF GRACE. On November 28th, 1948, Jesus brought Douglas Linley Heuiser through that portal.
In the same way, Jesus entered into DEATH and removed its sting, and made it the portal through which He brings individuals, one at a time into His KINGDOM OF GLORY. On April 30th, 2014, Jesus brought Douglas Linley Heuiser through that portal.
Everyone who is baptized into Christ is baptized into His death. It’s a package deal. In holy Baptism, we are buried while we are still alive – and we are raised from the dead before we die. (Rom. 6:4)
Which is simply to say, Douglas is fine. He’s just fine.
BUT THEN AGAIN, WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US? We are no where near ready for dancing. Our hearts will be clothed with sackcloth for quite awhile. TIME MAY HELP. But at its best, all that time can do is deaden the pain and give us a chance to adjust to the vacancy and the emptiness.
But time can do no more than that. Because “all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls…” (1 Peter 1:24) ‘BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD STANDS FOREVER.’
And so, we mourn, but not as those who have no hope. We mourn with the sure and certain confidence that we will one day laugh.
And we patiently, faithfully, await that day when the confusion of sorrow and happiness, of weeping and laughing, breaks out in pure joy.
We PERSERVERE in this one, true faith, with our eyes fixed on Jesus,
not perusing those things that are PLEASURABLE, but those things that are PROFITABLE,
until that day finally comes when it is our turn to pass through that portal of death
and take our place alongside those who have gone before us,
and evermore praise the Lamb who was slain, saying,
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”