Tuesday, 9 November 2010

A Short Funeral Sermon with reference to Matthew 5.1-12 and Wind Beneath My Wings: for Phoebe Langley

If ever there is a time we need some wind beneath our wings. It’s times like this. When we feel less than buoyant. When the emotional gravity of grief sets in. We lose altitude, we become vulnerable to depression.

We may have felt that the love and support of the person we’re mourning—a beloved parent or friend—was part of the wind that kept us in the air. And now that is gone. Where do we turn for another source?

The best source, especially at times like this, is God, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. The One who is called ruach in the OT and pneuma in the New, both mean wind and the very breath of God. The Bible calls Him the Comforter. That’s the wind we need beneath our wings for sustained flight, no matter what.

What else might help? A hero, perhaps. Someone stronger than us, someone to take up our cause, to be on our side.

“Did you ever know that you're my hero,” says the song, “and everything I would like to be? I can fly higher than an eagle, 'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.”

We may also have looked up to our loved one who has died as a kind of hero. We may have looked to him or her to get our bearings every now and then. But now she has gone. Who or what can replace her?

There is another to whom we can turn. His name is Jesus. Someone said that Jesus is the hero of every story in the Bible. It’s his teaching we just heard in the reading from Matthew. He’s the One who said: blessed or happy are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, merciful, pure in heart, who make peace by the way they live.

In Jesus, God the Father gave us a hero who had the courage to gently, but firmly, turn the values system of the world upside down so that, for example, true happiness is found in meekness rather than success, in peacemaking rather than winning. Jesus is the hero who is able to take our mourning at times like this and fill it with the joy of good memories and the hope of resurrection from the dead and eternal life; comforted, filled, receiving mercy, as God’s beloved children, seeing Him face to face in the kingdom of heaven; forever and ever. Amen.

We can, of course, try and create our own wind by flapping our wings energetically and running here and there. The trouble with that is sooner or later we will always run out of breath. But think about the eagle, with its God-given gift of making the most of the wind beneath its wings. Its flight looks effortless.

Like the song says, we can fly higher than any eagle when the wind beneath our wings is the mighty rushing wind and breath of God, the Holy Spirit Himself, and when Jesus is our hero.