Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Funeral Sermon with Reference to Murder, Ecclesiastes 3 and John 6: for Corinne Sellhorn

That we should be doing this in Family Violence Prevention month is heart breaking and challenging.

I'm not going to try and soften anything for you this morning. That would dishonour Corinne. Life is real and so is death and it comes at us hard sometimes. I'm not going to try and tell you that if you just hold your mouth right everything's really okay. The fact is that there are times when things are very clearly not okay, and this is one of them.

That Corinne Sellhorn died the way she did is not okay. Corinne was murdered. The victim of an evil, brutal, sinful, commandment breaking act. That so many women die at the hands of a man whose God-given role, I believe, is to protect women and children is not okay. It is not okay that we have to have women's shelters and family violence prevention months. It is a tragedy.

The writer of our first reading was very much aware of the dark side of life. Listen to the language: kill, tear down, cry, grieve, turn away, lose, hate, war. He knew that there are times when people tear at one another, turn away from one another, reject one another—throw one another away. Times when love (if that's what it ever was) turns to hate and something like war breaks out in people's homes and families. When laughter turns to crying, dancing turns to grief and, too often, violence—emotional, physical, sexual—rears its ugly head and there's killing, murder and aching loss.

How do we deal with that when it comes close like this?

First, we give heartfelt thanks to God for his gift of Corinne. We remember with joy and delight that there was also a time for Corinne to be born. We're all glad of that. I've heard John and Pat and Jason talk of her adventurous, generous nature; of her laughter and sense of fun. All good. All joyful memories. The evil being suffered now does not cancel out the good enjoyed then. It makes the memories sweeter. Thank God for Corinne.

Despite his honest acknowledgement of the pain and tragedies and challenges of life the writer of Ecclesiastes wrote about the good things, too; of healing, rebuilding, laughing, dancing, embracing, mending, love and peace. All those things are still in the world, in our lives and, for those of you who knew her, in your memories of Corinne.

Second, to go back to the hard list from Ecclesiastes, to honour our memory of Corinne, we can commit to the work of planting good, healthy relationships with those we love. We can commit to do our part to heal any broken ones and to rebuild and mend them. We can decide to keep the good things in them and build on them, and throw the resentments and the bitternesses and the temptations to hurt away. We can decide to be quiet when we know that to speak up will put down or cause pain. Above all, we can decide, choose, to love one another—even the people who we don't like and who irritate us, especially those people—to love one another, to treat one another with the greatest kindness and respect.

We can make sure the people we love know it. Show and tell them today. Tomorrow may be too late.

Third, tragic and sudden death like this is a blunt reminder that we, too, are mortal. There is an ancient prayer in the Anglican Prayer Book called The Great Litany. Part of it goes like this: From earthquake and tempest; from drought fire and flood; from civil strife and violence; from war and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared, Good Lord deliver us.

Today we’re experiencing a sharp reminder of the reality of sudden death. Can one ever be prepared for that? Yes, we can. How? By investing in our relationships as I’ve already described and, as we acknowledge the real and tragic effects of evil and sin in our world and in our lives (we're going through some of that now), by considering the example and teaching of another murder victim; Jesus Christ, who, not long before he was killed, said in effect, this is the way to be prepared, "Don't be troubled. Trust God. Trust in Me. There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I know the way. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. I'm telling the truth. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there."

But we are troubled and, like Thomas, we too will say, "We don't know where you're going. We've lost our way." What we're going through is too hard, too dark, too painful. To which, just as he did to Thomas, Jesus replies, "I am the way, the truth and the life." What he's saying is If you want to be prepared for anything, and to safely negotiate awful times like this, keep your eyes on me. That there is ugliness, pain, sin and hopelessness in the world, doesn’t mean you have to let your life be defined by them. If you let me, I will be your way through life's darkest moments. I know the way Home. I'm the only one who does. I love Corinne and I love you. Follow me and I'll show you the way to one of those rooms in my Father's heavenly home.

If you want to find me, right now I am found in the Scriptures, in my Church and in the people who follow me. Come to me and you will find rest.