In Memoriam: August Perry Azure
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany, February 20, 2022
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13; Psalm 23; 1 Corinthians 15: 50-55; Saint John 14:1-6
In nomine Jesu!
From Ecclesiastes we’ve learned that there is a time for virtually everything; everything except the death of a child, particularly before his parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. We are mourning that untimely dying today. So, as we commend August Perry Azure into the hands of God, we need to acknowledge his parents’ and grandparents’ and great-grandmother’s grief, as well as the rest of his family’s, at Augie’s passing. Twenty-nine is just too young. We grieve for Augie with you. We also grieve for you. No one should have to deal with a situation like this. You should not have to deal with this. Some of us have been weeping with you since we learned of Augie’s death. All of us weep with you today.
Yet we do not only weep; we also rejoice in hope. Heart-broken with you because his life was both difficult and too short, we gather with you today as his ashes rest near the place of his baptism; the place where, by the power of the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus Christ, God put behind Augie the only death he had to fear. His mortal remains are there and we are gathered here not only to mourn his death but to celebrate his life. To thank God for the privilege of knowing him. To remember his laughter, his singing, his music, and the joy he gave us simply by being exactly what God made him, himself. Those memories both sadden and comfort us. Yet, what comforts us the most, what fills us with joy in the midst of profound sadness is the knowledge, born of faith, that our experience with Augie has been paused; it has not ended for we believe what we just heard, namely that “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” and that on that day we will recognize one another and know one another the way God made and redeemed us, as ourselves. The ancient Orthodox hymn, now beloved of us, which we will hear and respond to expresses this best: “Even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!”
How can we say and sing this? While we can seek and even learn the facts of Augie’s dying, how and why death came to Augie, our hopeful response, our ability to sing “alleluia” requires something else; requires the gift of the Holy Spirit we call “faith;” faith in a mystery; faith in a promise — God’s promise — sealed for Augie on the day of his baptism. On that very day, August Perry Azure’s life and death was already brightened by Christ’s victory. On that day, God assured us that since “we have been united with Christ in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with Christ in a resurrection like his.” So we do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve as those who must endure a pause, not an end, to our relationship with Augie.
Today Christ Jesus tells us that he has gone before us to our Father’s house “to prepare a place for [us].” Here’s how I see that promise – how I hope you will see that promise – fulfilled for Augie.
Augie fell asleep and was found, I understand, in his own room. Taking Christ Jesus at his word, trusting in his promise, I believe that when Augie next awakes, he will still be in his own room, in the place, the dwelling in the Father’s house that Christ himself has prepared for him and to which Christ has carried him.
It is in that sure and certain hope that we sing our alleluias today. It is with that sure and certain faith we pray for ourselves:
O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.