Friday, 19 February 2010

A Funeral Sermon: for John Head with Reference to 1 Cor 15 in the BCP

Beautiful language. Elizabethan. Shakespearian. Translated from a language and a culture even older.  It can be hard to get our 21st century ears around it. But John loved it.
What does it mean for John and for us?

Top of page 596 (Canadian Book of Common Prayer): “in Christ shall all be made to live. But every one in his/her own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s, at his coming.”

John is one of them that are Christ’s. If ever there was a man who belonged to Jesus, it was John Head.

How do I know?

Apart from the fact that I know he gave his life to Jesus many years ago, I know it because of his character. For example, his humility. John had an encyclopedic  knowledge of history and the Bible—yet his main concern seemed to be that he not be seen to be “showing off” and drawing attention to himself.

His servant heart; I remember hearing of his serving as secretary for the Sunday School teachers meetings. Look at the heart displayed in the hymn he wrote in your leaflet.
His compassion—his commitment to being an advocate for the unborn and for those around the world who are persecuted for their Christian faith.

His concern for his family—over and over again, he spoke to me of his love for all of you and how desperately he wanted all of you to belong to Jesus, too.

All signs of a man who belonged to Jesus.

Where is he now? The Bible says he is in paradise with Jesus awaiting the time of the mystery Paul describes at the top of p597 when “we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead (John is one of them) shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed.”

But, some will say (look at the beginning of the second paragraph on page 596)”How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” And Paul replies, John, and all of us who remain, are like kernels of grain, which only come to life when they are sown and die.
(To the third paragraph on page 596) “So also is the resurrection of the dead.” The dry kernel of grain which is our natural, earthy life in this world with its corruption, sin and weakness is planted in death to germinate and be raised in incorruption, glory and power as a spiritual body in the next.

In other words, Paul writes, at the bottom of page 596, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We either have to die or be alive on earth when the last trump mystery happens and death is swallowed up in victory.

Shortly before his death at age 62, the great 19th century evangelist, Dwight Moody wrote:
Some day you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.

John Head is more alive now than he ever was and he is in the presence of the loving, risen, glorified Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Saviour of the World. And as we shall say shortly, “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.” John is one of those so blessed. Therefore, although we grieve because we miss him, we don’t have to worry about John any more.
What about we who are left? What might John say to us and especially his children and their children?

I think he might draw our attention to the phrase a quarter of the way down page 597: “Death is swallowed up in victory,” and he might say, “if you want your death to be swallowed up in victory, too, then you must get connected with Jesus because he is the one (the only one, the Bible tells us) through whom God gives that victory over death.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he were to tear up a little and his voice would break as it did so often when he spoke of things dear to his heart.

Then he might say, here’s how you claim that victory. Get connected with Jesus and his church. And he might draw our attention to Romans 10.9 which says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Saved from what? From corruption, dishonour, weakness, sin and death.

And all that he would say, not to make you feel guilty, but because he loves you and very much wants each one of you, one day, to join him in being even more alive than you are now.