Note: This was a short message I shared during my grandfather’s memorial service. He passed away yesterday morning.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:20-26 NIV)
It gives me great honour to be speaking during this time for my grandfather’s memorial service. And it’s kind of an emotional thing to do as well to see Tepu’ being the person that he was and seeing him now.
I have my share of funny stories about tepu’, like the one where the sales person convinced him that the swimming trunk was some sort of superior underwear. Or like how he liked to merge modern clothe wear in his trademark kelabit look.
I can’t say that I know tepu very well but like all grand children we have our memories of how he was when he was with us. For me what tepu was famous for was his story telling, especially his rendition of the palug rayeh and palug eit story of which the one on them looking for wives (sekunuh nekap awan). I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it but somehow the one telling the story always made it enjoyable to hear.
One of my aunties recounted the time when tepu was in hospital a few months back and tepu was very weak. He could not sit up and he was heavy for my auntie to carry up and sit. Tepu was insisting that he wanted to pray and that he had to do it sitting. For tepu, he just had to do it sitting down, because i think he had always done it that way before as a posture he did when it comes to prayer.
And during this time of tepu’s passing, he will always come alive when we remind ourselves back to old stories of our encounters, conversations, friendships with him. Memories invite us to the realm of space where the past comes alive to us in the present.
This thing about memory is also something important to us who hold dearly to the faith in which we profess in Jesus. And like this present circumstance where we are all looking at death in the face, we are reminded about our mortality, the weakness that our bodies are aging day by day, and that at some point of time we too will face this experience.
And as we are presented with this unpleasant future, that we all would face death, we remind ourselves of the memories of the believers of old (1 John 1:1-4 esp v.3 “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard.”) who experienced the one who overcame death.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:1-4 NIV)
We hinge/anchor our hope and faith on the promise of Jesus’ resurrection for it is in this that death, the last enemy to be defeated. 1 Cor 15: 24-28
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28 NIV)
Although presently death may seem the victor, in the lifeless body of tepu’ today, we should remind ourselves of our own faith in which we profess; on the truth that Jesus has indeed overcome death by him rising up again after dying because when we are in Christ, we partake in his life, where we die to the present way of life by following the ways of the world, and are made alive when we initiate to live according to his ways.
We arm ourselves by reminding ourselves of the faith in which we profess and live so we can echo what Paul said in Romans 15:54-55 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death is your victory? Where, o death is your sting?” Because victory has been given to us who profess and live in Christ (Rom 15:56-57 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.)
Dear Lord, in light of how we remind ourselves of tepu and how alive he is in our memories as though he is still here with us, teach us to remind ourselves of our own lives in the light of the living message of the gospel of your son coming into the world to give us eternal life. “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12), Keep us always rooted in the faith we profess and desire to live. In Jesus name Amen.