Friday, 11 March 2011

Here and There: a Funeral Sermon for Edna Finch

As Anne said, last Friday afternoon Edna woke a couple of times and said, “Oh. Am I still here?”

It reminds me of a passage in 2 Corinthians 5:1–2 (ESV) where Paul writes:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.
Edna was tired of her earthly tent here. She wanted to put on that heavenly dwelling there. And in verse 8:
Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
At home with the LORD. There. Heaven. Edna was disappointed to still be here because she wanted to be there awaiting what we heard about in the reading from 1 Corinthians 15(vv20-26, 35-38, 42-58) where, as it says on the second line on page 596 “in Christ shall all be made to live.” To get from here to there alive can only be in Christ Jesus. Edna knew that.

Paul tells us more about the difference between here and there half way down page 596, the first few lines of the paragraph beginning “So also.” Here there is corruption, dishonour and weakness—suffering, decay and death. There there will be incorruption—no decay—Edna will be “raised in glory,” and, next line, “raised in power,” next line, in a brand new “spiritual body.” All because of Jesus, “the last Adam” who “was made a life-giving spirit.” Jesus gives life to dead people. He says so himself: in John 6:40 (ESV): “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”

He repeats that twice more in John 6: “I will raise them up on the last day.” That’s what Jesus, the life-giving spirit, says he will do.

Some of the people who were there when Jesus said that weren’t very happy about what he said. They grumbled the Bible tells us. I’m not saying Edna ever grumbled, but if ever there was a woman who would speak up if something bothered her that would be Edna Finch. She had to deal with some hard things in her life here: the death of her husband, George, and the challenges of daughter Georgina’s life and death. Some people give up on God because of lesser things than those. Edna never did.

Edna used to tell me she didn’t like Church things to change. I remember once when the St Barnabas leadership was trying to decide whether to embark on a project someone asked, “What would Jesus do?” Edna replied in her usual direct way, “I know what Jesus would do! I just don’t want to do it!” She would argue the toss over many things but, in my experience, she never gave up on Jesus. Despite the hard things, challenges and change she faced here, she continued to believe. Edna Finch will be raised up on the last day because of that. Because of her belief in Jesus here she will (end of the paragraph, 3rd and 4th lines from the bottom of the page) “bear the image of the heavenly” there.

What can we who are still here learn from Edna and what we’ve heard about Jesus this afternoon? Edna’s life is an colourful example of a real-life faith in Jesus despite things that are not easily understood, adversity and change. She really wanted to get from here to there and she believed that Jesus is the Way.

Some questions to ask ourselves as we remember and appreciate Edna. Was she right? Am I allowing the challenges of life here blind me to the reality of the promises Jesus made about getting there? Am I just plain careless about the things of God here, hoping that I’ll get there somehow anyway? One thing is sure. One day your life and my life here will come to an end just as Edna’s did. On that day, there will be a there for each of us. Where would you like your there to be?

I’ll give Jesus the last word—something about the there he offers—from John 14:1–6 (NLT) (I've added the "there"s):
Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready there, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me there where I am.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can get there except through me.
Let’s pray: Lord, thank you that we got to enjoy Edna here and that she is now safe there with you. Amen.