Saturday, 20 September 2008

A Funeral Sermon with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3.1-8 and John 14.1-6 for Earl Todd

The Earl Todd story that sticks in my mind was told by Rita. She, Mickey, Sharon and I were sitting in Earl’s room at Riverside a day or two before he died. I asked her how they got together and she told me about this guy who, it seems, wooed her by playing his violin to her. Now that must warm any woman’s heart provided the guy plays reasonably well, I suppose—a hot Toddy, one might say. But I think it says something good about Earl. Any guy who woos his wife-to-be with a violin is a guy worth noting—worth marrying, as far as Rita was concerned.

As Mickey read to us earlier from Ecclesiastes chapter 3, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

Those violin playing days were part of a time to search for Earl. In this case a search for a mate. So there would have been those wonderful youthful times to laugh and to dance, to embrace (and to refrain from embracing when anxious parents might have been watching over their precious daughter). And all of this became a time to love which led to a time to keep (I think we’ll all agree that in Rita he found a keeper). And then there were times for the children to be born, to plant a family in a community and build a business. And so it has gone for, what? 70 years since those violin serenades? And here we all are because, happily, 89 years ago there was a time for Earl to be born, and finally, after a long, full life, it was time for Earl to die.

It’s sad. It hurts. But what a time it has been! A “Hot Toddy” story, indeed.

We who are left are still in the earthly season of our lives. As we remember Earl, is there anything for us to learn or to help us as we continue to live out our time for the everything in our lives and as we engage all our activities under heaven?

First, this is a reminder that for all of us, too, sooner or later, this season under heaven will come to an end. It seems to me, therefore, it would be a good idea to live it out in such a way that when that time comes, the people we love who are left behind will find their grief lightened by knowing, without a doubt, that you loved them very much and by good memories of the time they shared with you. I think you’ll all agree that that would be much better than your loved ones enjoying a sense of relief that you’re gone or having to somehow get through a grief darkened and complicated by the pain of estrangement, bitterness and anger.

So, as Mickey read, there are times to heal and to mend; take the time to heal and mend broken relationships. There is a time to love; make sure you show and tell the people you love that you do. Do it today. Tomorrow may be too late. Don’t give up. We heard that there is also a time to build; take time to build your important relationships.

This time to celebrate Earl’s life is a timely reminder to make the most of our time under heaven.

Second, and finally, we also have this time to think about death. What happens after we die? Is there an hereafter? That brings us to what Sharon read.

Jesus is recorded as saying that in his Father’s house—God’s house in heaven, in other words—there are many rooms and that he, Jesus, has gone on ahead to prepare a place—one of those rooms—for each his disciples. He says that they will know the way to the place where he was going. Thomas, one of his disciples, says, “No, we don’t where you are going, so how can we know the way?” To which Jesus replies with these famous words, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In other words, Jesus is the way to one of those rooms. Jesus is the one who handles the reservations.

Is that true or not? If it is, in addition to getting our relationships sorted out, it would be time very well spent to secure one of those reservations. How?

Believe or trust in God, and trust also in Jesus by becoming one of his disciples or followers. That, says Jesus, is the way to get from our time and season under heaven to one of those rooms in heaven.

To take that question seriously, along mending and building our relationships, would mean lives well lived and a good way to honour Earl Todd’s memory.