Thursday, 1 April 2010

A Funeral Sermon for Joan Turner: based on Psalm 139 and John 14

Because of our dear sister Joan we got to sing “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!” on Maundy Thursday. We’re supposed to wait until Easter Sunday. He is, you know. Risen. And because of that, this is, indeed, a “triumphant holy day” as we worship the LORD by giving Joan a send off in His Name.  And yet, at the same time, it’s a sad one because of Joan’s death, she has fallen victim to the world’s fatal flaw, the death that still has to happen before we can reach the resurrection triumph. It is not always going to be that way. One day the trumpet will sound, Jesus will return and death will be swallowed up in His victory.


Joan seemed poised for a long and happy time in her new home, with her new dog. But it was not to be. Does that mean that God had abandoned her? That God wasn’t all around her on every side, protecting her with His power, as we heard in Psalm 139 reading (v5)? No. There is nowhere Joan could have been to escape from Him. Even though she lived in Nanaimo, not quite “the farthest place in the west, (v9)” the Psalmist wrote about, but west. God was “there to lead” her and was “there to help” her (v10).


Joan Turner had her beginnings in God. The Psalmist again,
13 You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother's womb.15 When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother's womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there—16 you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.
Was God there for the ending of the earthly part of Joan’s life? That’s tougher to get our heads around. The Psalmist:
14 I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart.17 how difficult I find your thoughts; or how precious are your thoughts to me. how many of them there are! 18 If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand.
There’s so much we don’t understand about life. Suffering and death are particularly perplexing. And yet, “Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I get away from your presence? If I lay down in the world of the dead, you would be there! If I went up to heaven, you would be there” (v7-8). I go to sleep in death and “When I awake, I am still with you” (v18)


So where has Joan awakened? What’s it like? Is there a heaven? Jesus tells us so. For example in our second reading: John 14.1 “Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them. 
“Believe in God and believe also in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father's house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. 3 And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.
Rooms. In Heaven. Many of them. Places prepared. I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. Where Jesus is. Sounds like the big house with the big yard and the big table that Bonnie sang about. Plenty of room for Joan and no burnt fish fingers. I wonder if it’s in that big house that Joan woke up to see the face of Jesus and a nice big cup of tea from Eric.


Plenty of room for you and me, too, if that’s where we’d like to be when our time comes. How do we get there? Some of us might be like Thomas, who said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way to get there?” (v5) when Jesus told him and the others, (v4) “You know the way that leads to the place where I am going.


What’s the way to the big house? Jesus is. “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me” (v6), he says.


How do we find Jesus? Well, we could follow Joan. She knew the way. So did Eric. Joan knew where Jesus is to be found. In His church; yes, the one full of hypocrites and sinners and also, and more importantly, people like Joan and Eric Turner. Jesus is also found in the Bible and in the people, like Joan and Eric, who follow Him.


Want one of those rooms? Want to wake from the sleep of death and find that Jesus is there? Get connected with Him. Like we heard in the song, “And Jesus, I heard that if I give you my heart, then you’d let me go there.” Follow Joan’s and Eric’s examples. They knew that Jesus is the way to the big, big house. There is no other.