Caitlin Trussell at Wings Over the Rockies Museum/ Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery (Centennial Airport)
[Sermon begins after two Bible readings]
Jeremiah 29:11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
Romans 8:35, 37-39 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Michelle and I have been talking about today since March when the pandemic shutdown the city. Trying to figure out where and when we could gather to celebrate Cameron’s life in this way was not easy. I know today is one of several times some of you have been together. The first time being the day Cameron died, during the hours long wait for the coroner’s arrival on the scene. Another being the balloon release the week after he died. It’s difficult to not let his tragic death overshadow the light Cameron brought in life and the light he continues to bring as you remember him. When I spoke with Rob and Michelle about today, I heard so many wonderful things about Cameron that make me wish I knew him as you did. We’ve already heard some of those memories today and there are so many more on your hearts and minds. His smile, loyalty, kindness, athleticism, perpetual motion, love of a challenge, and love of the Buffalo Bills all come with many stories. These are gifts that Cameron shared with you all who love him.
As a son, cousin, first grandchild and great-grandchild, friend, best friend, employee and more, Cameron brought a lot of joy. His adulting plans included his flight lessons with the goal of flying for UPS someday. It’s part of the reason we’re gathered here at the airport and will celebrate with a flyover. More immediately, he had plans to be in London in April. After he died, Cameron’s heart ventricles and corneas were able to be donated. One of his corneas ended up gifted to a recipient in London. Rob told me that while Cameron didn’t see London while he was alive, he was able to make it there after he died to see through someone else’s eyes.
Jesus says in the Bible, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus knows that your hearts are troubled. How could they not be? The end of Cameron’s 23 years old life is a tragedy. And tragedy brings the question, “Why?!!” And the attempts to answer that question also come. Attempts that don’t answer the question of “why” and often leave us hurting each other or hurting ourselves. We hurt each other and ourselves as we try to figure out what Jeremiah means by God’s plan for us and we wonder if that God had a direct hand in Cameron’s death. Above and beyond the grief, we say things like, “Well if that’s the plan that God has then I want nothing to do with that God.”
But listen to the promise of Jeremiah once more… “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Not for harm…for hope.
How does this hope take shape in the face of real pain? First by naming the tragedy for what it is – just like in the reading from the book of Romans that names tragedy as hardship, distress, persecution, famine, peril, nakedness, sword; just like our reason for being here today is Cameron’s death at such a young age. And also by naming the good and the love and the hope lived in his life too. Naming the celebration of life and naming the pain.
There’s a temptation at funerals to try to look back and prove our worthiness before God. To think that we have to prove our own goodness or the worthiness of the person who died, and position ourselves in right relationship with God with a list of the good. The list becomes a bit like Santa’s naughty and nice tally. But Jesus doesn’t give as the world gives. He does NOT tally.
If his death on the cross means anything, it means that God is not in the sin accounting business. Another way to say it is that it’s not about what we’re doing, it is all about what Jesus does for us. God’s promises through Jesus. We hear these promises and still we’re tempted to ask “BUT what about WHAT I’M supposed to do?! Have I done enough to make myself right with God?! Has Cameron?” It’s hard for us to believe that what Jesus accomplished on the cross is the last word for us and for Cameron.
Christians refer to living on “this side of the cross” to mean our life here on earth. The resurrection-side of the cross is simply too much to fathom in a world in which we can so clearly see real problems. In this way, the truth of the cross is closer to home than the resurrection. It’s a truth we get deep in our gut.
The truth that being human involves real suffering and pain.
The truth of God’s self-sacrificing love.
The truth that God would rather die than raise a hand in violence against the world that God so loves.
The truth that forgiveness comes from the cross as Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
The truth about the unflinching love of God in the face of our failures.
Those are hard truths but we can get at them from our own experiences of love, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, pain, suffering, and death. We can get at them from this side of the cross.
The Bible emphasizes the power of God in Jesus. Jesus, who is God. God, who is Jesus. Jesus whose life reveals God’s love and care for all people regardless of class, gender, or race. Jesus whose ministry of God’s unconditional love led to his execution on a cross. Another truth of the cross is that God knows suffering. More than that, the cross reveals the mystery of God suffering with us when we suffer. Not to say that we rejoice because we suffer but rather, we are reassured of God’s love even in the midst of our suffering.
In self-sacrificing love, Jesus laid his life down on a cross and now catches death up into God, drawing Cameron into holy rest where suffering is no more. Jesus is focused on the goal of bringing people back into relationship with God. The self-sacrificing love of God, given fully on the cross, draws us back into relationship with God.  Jesus has already opened up whatever we perceive the barrier to be between us and God.
Nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus because the movement is from God to us.
Nothing separates Cameron from the love of God in Christ Jesus because the movement is from God to Cameron.
And because it is God’s movement to us, God’s movement to Cameron, God gives us a future with hope as God also brings Cameron into a future with God.
On his earthly birthday, we celebrate Cameron’s life as we celebrate his new life with God. Here, now, we are assured that this is God’s promise for Cameron. And be assured, that this is God’s promise for you. Thanks be to God! Amen.
 Koester, course notes, 12/1/2010. For further study see: Craig R. Koester, The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).