Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Funeral Sermon with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3, John 14, Wind Beneath My Wings and I Hope You Dance: for Pat Hider

“For everything there is a season,” wrote the  preacher in our reading from Ecclesiastes, “a time for every matter under heaven.”

There was a time for Pat Hider to be born and we’re glad for that, and there was a time for Pat Hider to die (as there will be for all of us, unless the LORD returns first) but that we don’t like so much.

There’s nothing we can do to influence the time God chooses for us to be born and there’s very little we can do to reschedule our time to die. Although we may have some issues over the timing of the latter, for the most part we just have to accept God’s timing. Although we may not have much control over the way we die, we do have some considerable control over the way we live our lives and how well we prepare ourselves for that inevitable event; in other words, by how we deal with the things we heard about in the first reading that happen between the two: the  planting, how we uproot that, what we kill and why, the healing, what we break down and build up, the weeping, the laughing (with or at), the mourning, the dancing, the scattering and gathering of the stones in our lives, the embracing, the refraining from embracing, the seeking, the losing, the keeping, the throwing away, the tearing apart and the mending, the keeping silence, the speaking, the loving and the hating, the warring and peacemaking.

Pat handled all that pretty well despite circumstances which would have defeated many of us and which could, oh so easily, have slipped into self pity, anger and bitterness.
Pat was someone who lived her life as if she decided to follow the Apostle Paul’s advice in his letter to the fledgling Church in Ephesus:
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5.15-16)
If there was ever someone who made the most of her time and her lot in the face of evil and adversity, it was Pat Hider.

And so I hear some of the lines from the song we just heard, Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings, in how Jon and Cassi speak of their mother.
you were the one with all the strength.
A beautiful smile to hide the pain.
Did you ever know that you're my hero, and everything I would like to be? I can fly higher than an eagle, 'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.
Thank you, thank you, thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings.
Pat’s example in adversity was like the wind Bette Midler sings about. The kind of wind that bears us up, enables us to fly through and over life’s challenges. People like Pat encourage us to make the best use of the time we have been given.

There’s another wind a-blowing in our world. A gentle, God-sent wind which is especially helpful at times like this when we might be bent in our sorrow. The great prophet Isaiah described its effects like this:
those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isa 40.31)
With the example of people like Pat, hoping in the LORD, and with the wind of God, the mighty Holy Spirit, at our back, we can soar, making the most of the time we have been given without weariness or fainting.

So, that takes us from birth to death. After we’ve negotiated our way through life, with all its matters and seasons, then what?

In our second reading Jesus places another choice before us. He tells us that are many rooms in his Father’s house, that he has gone on ahead to prepare places in them for us, and that one day he will come again to take us to himself so that where he is, we may be also. Notice he says we may be there, not will be.

How do we live our lives in a way which will get us from may to will? Jesus tells us. “Believe in God, believe also in me.” How do you believe? It’s like deciding to marry someone, you listen to your heart, you find out as much as you can about the person, spend time with him or her, consider his or her life’s values, will he or she be faithful? And then you take the plunge. As the song we’ll be hearing shortly, I Hope You Dance, says,
when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, you dance
Living might mean taking chances but they're worth taking
You might be taking a chance on marriage, but you are never taking a chance on Jesus, who, despite Michael Flatley’s footwork, is the real Lord of the Dance.

So, decide to believe in Jesus, the one who called himself The Way, The Truth and The Life and who handles all the room reservations in his Father’s heavenly home, where there is no Lupus or any other disease, no wheelchairs, no pain, no tears.

As the song we’re about to hear says, and this could very well be Pat’s prayer for all of you as you make the most of the time you have been given:
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance (faith in Jesus, that is)
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Don't let some hell bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out reconsider
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.
The Lord of the Dance, Jesus Christ, Saviour of the World, keeper of those heavenly reservations, is waiting for your response to his invitation.