Friday, 25 February 2011

A Short Funeral Sermon with Reference to Psalm 23—for Joyce Moody

Joyce’s son Fred sent me a few poems which he thought would be appropriate for today, asking me to weave them in to our celebration. Here’s a couple of verses from one—author unknown:

God saw you getting tired,
When a cure was not to be.
So He wrapped his arms around you,
and whispered, "come to me."
You didn't deserve what you went through,
So He gave you rest.
God's garden must be beautiful,
He only takes the best.

What’s this God like who says “come to me” and whose garden is beautiful? We get a word picture of Him and His garden in the 23rd Psalm, which Joyce asked to be a part of this service. Turn to page 43 in your hymn booklet and we’ll read it together.

THE LORD is my shepherd; / therefore can I lack nothing. 2 He shall feed me in a green pasture, / and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort. 3 He shall restore my soul, / and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his Name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; / for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me. 5 THOU shalt prepare a table before me in the presence of them that trouble me; / thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full. 6 Surely thy loving-kindness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; / and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Beautiful. Peaceful.

I think Psalm 23 can give us an insight into good mothering. I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say Joyce was like a shepherd to her sons, Fred and John, especially in their childhood. She saw that they lacked nothing. She fed them, her lap was like “waters of comfort” to them. She restored their soul when they were down. Her loving kindness and mercy followed them all the days of their lives.
Joyce, it seems to me, and from what her sons shared, was that kind of woman and mother. Here’s one of the poems Fred sent me which resonates with that Psalm 23 kind of mother—from an Irish funeral prayer:

You can only have one mother
Patient kind and true;
No other friend in all the world,
Will be the same to you.
When other friends forsake you,
To mother you will return,
For all her loving kindness,
She asks nothing in return.
As we look upon her picture,
Sweet memories we recall,
Of a face so full of sunshine,
And a smile for one and all.
Sweet Jesus, take this message,
To our dear mother up above;
Tell her how we miss her,
And give her all our love.

And that puts things very neatly in context for today. Especially because of that reference to Jesus. Joyce, like so many women and mothers, was the one who quietly and faithfully, without calling attention to herself or what she was doing, held her family before Jesus, the Good Shepherd. When I visited and asked her what she’d like me to pray for her: for my family she’d say. Jesus was her shepherd and she faithfully brought her family into His presence through her worship Sunday after Sunday and her prayers day by day. As far as I know, she never gave up.

Why is that important? Another of Fred’s poems gives us a clue. This is by Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)—in your leaflet:

When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room,
Why cry for a soul set free!
Miss me a little - but not for long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me, but let me go.
For this journey that we all must take
And each must go alone;
It's all a part of the Master's plan
A step on the road to home.

The Master’s plan. To whom is Guest referring? Jesus. A step on the road to home. Where’s that? In the Bible Jesus says don’t let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms, I’ve gone on ahead to prepare one for you and you know the way there. To which Thomas said, probably expressing what many of you might be thinking, “Wait a minute! We don’t know where you are going so how can we know the way?” That’s when Jesus said, I am the way and the truth and the life, nobody comes home to the Father and one of those rooms I prepared except through me.

That’s the Jesus Joyce worshipped and into who’s presence she kept bringing her family. That’s the Jesus into whose presence we’re commending her soul today - no doubt continuing to be the life of the party. That’s the Jesus who looks after the reservations for those rooms in the Father’s heavenly home.

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