Wednesday, 25 August 2010

A Short Funeral Sermon with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3, John 14 and The Chronicles of Narnia: for Emily Nott

To paraphrase a verse in Genesis (25.8) about the death of the great Patriarch Abraham: Emily Nott has breathed her last and died in a good old age, an old and beloved woman and full of years, and has been gathered to her people. There’s sadness in it. But there’s also a rightness in it. Emily lived a good long life, a bit longer than she wanted after John died, I suspect, but good, and full of years. It was her time. As we heard in the reading from Ecclesiastes, there was also a time for her to be born and we’re all glad of it. Between then and now, there has been much planting, uprooting, killing, healing, tearing down, building, weeping, laughing, mourning, dancing, stone scattering and gathering, embracing and not, searching, giving up, keeping, throwing away, tearing, mending, silence, speaking, loving, hating, war and peace. Ninety-six years of it, in fact. Emily was not an accident. She was born who she was born, she lived and loved and raised her family, and grew old and full of years, in exactly the time frame God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, lovingly and wisely intended. Emily died in a good old age.

Know this. It is not the end for Emily.  Something new has begun for her. I’ve just finished reading CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. In last paragraph of The Last Battle, the final book in the series, Lewis describes this new something, the new life that Emily is now experiencing, as great and beautiful and it is for her (I’m paraphrasing slightly), “the beginning of the real story. All her life in this world and all her adventures in this life, all the planting, the weeping, the mending and the loving, all that long list of real life experiences from Ecclesiastes, every one of her ninety-six years had only been the cover and the title page: now at last she is beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Chapter One of Emily Nott’s Great Story has begun. Today we mark that with gratitude and joy. But there is also sadness, as I mentioned before, and a sense of loss for some of us as we begin new the next stage of our lives without her. How do we do that well? Jesus tells us.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In 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. 3 And 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. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going. … 6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1–6 (NIV) 
If we are to enjoy a Great Story one day in which every chapter is better than the one before, it can only be done if we have one of those rooms. Jesus is the only one through whom we can get one. Jesus manages the reservations. Like Aslan, the great lion in Lewis’s Narnia, Jesus is good, but he is not tame. When he speaks, it is the truth. If Jesus says he is preparing places for us. He is. If Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through him. No one can.

There’s a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. Emily Nott has breathed her last and died in a good old age, an old and beloved woman, full of years, and has been gathered to her people. As we remember her time with us and honour her, this would be a good time for us to decide to trust in God and trust in Jesus; to confirm our Great Story, eternal life, room reservation with Jesus.