Tuesday, 12 August 2008

A Funeral Sermon for Bill Webster: Cockpit Checklist with Reference to Ecc 3.1-8 and John 14.1-6

Most of you know that Bill flew for British Airways for many years.

I can remember Bill Webster (Captain Webster) telling me once that he always insisted (and I’m sure we all know exactly how forceful Bill could be in his insisting) that the cockpit check be done from the printed list because then you’d never miss anything.

Why do a cockpit check at all? So that the flyer, and his or her passengers and crew, can reach his or her destination safely.

The problem to which Bill was referring is our natural tendency as we get familiar with something to think that we know it well enough to do it by memory and so we relax and when we relax we can get careless and when we get careless accidents happen.

In the last few years Bill became convinced that The Bible is very much like one of those cockpit check lists. One has to refer to the actual document before take-off because if one doesn’t one might miss something which could lead to disaster.

Just as a pilot can get careless about doing that same old pre-flight cockpit check time after time, we can get careless about, what I will call, our life-flight checklist so that we end up taking unnecessary risks with our relationships and with our likelihood of reaching our eternal destination safely.

What we just heard provide us with some important check-points for safe, straight and level life-flight.

For example: one of the items on a cockpit checklist is the clock. Check to see that it is on and turning.

1 There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die.

…and we’re all glad there was a time for Bill to be born, we’re glad, too, that there followed times to laugh and dance and embrace and to love Mollie, and because of that, times for others to be born, too: Keris, Jackie and Michelle and so it goes on.

Our eternal clocks are, indeed, on and turning. Because of Bill we have this opportunity to check our own. Are we using our time well? Do the people we love know it? Are we wasting energy by trying to stop that clock, or to deny that it’s turning. Are we doing regular cockpit checks to ensure that we’re still flying on course, straight and level.

The clock is on and turning and finally, after a remarkable battle (yes, there are times for making war on diseases and to search for cures) there came the time for Bill to die and for us to weep and mourn and to give him up into the hands of God and now we have this time to try and make peace with all of that.

How do we do that. Jesus has a suggestion.

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?"

Sometimes our life-flight is a little wobbly, especially at times like this. If it gets too wobbly we’re in danger of getting into a spin.

That’s where to cockpit check comes in again. If that is done properly, we’ll know how fast we’re going, whether we’re gaining or losing altitude, where the horizon is and what our relationship is to that horizon. We’re much less likely to wobble or spin out of control.

Like Thomas, sometimes we can lose our way or don’t know how to get where we hope to go. Check your compass. Make sure there are no bubbles in it. Measure it against a known heading. Here’s one: John 14.6

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Jesus is the way to that place in the Father’s heavenly house. Jesus provides the correct and only true compass bearing to that place and Jesus is the only one who can provide the safe, straight and level life-flight to that place.

Bill came to know that and to conduct is life-flight accordingly. He has made his approach and made his three-point landing, safe in the hands of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If he were with us now, Captain Webster might very well say, “Get your eternal cockpit checklist out, blow the dust off it and get busy before it’s too late. The clock is ticking. Enjoy your flight. Hope you will arrive safely and join me in the crew lounge one day.”