Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Short Funeral Sermon with Reference to Tracy Chapman singing "The Promise," Ecclesiastes 3 and John 14—for John "Allan" Stadelman

This is a sad day; the result of Allan’s time to die; too early for us. A time, as the writer of our first reading puts it, to lose, to cry, and to grieve. It’s also a stark reminder that life can be shorter than we expect. So if we have turned away from some people in our lives, times like this remind us to offer the comforting embrace, to love and to make peace, to search for ways to rebuild, mend and heal torn relationships—relationships that we may have thrown away in hurt, resentment or anger—because tomorrow might be too late and not to do so can only too easily leave our lives blighted by regret.

Yet in the midst of our sadness, there is joy. The slide show before the service gave us a sense who and what gave Allan joy. We’re glad there was a time for Allan to be born. You are glad of the laughing, dancing, loving times you got to share with Allan in his love of family, friends, team sports, music, bowling and a good debate. You have good memories to enjoy. Life is often good.

I guess the trick is you have to make the most of it. Allan worked in the casino with many of you. So this story may make sense to you. I remember hearing a painter being interviewed on the radio. He told the interviewer about how he found he had to paint everyday. He told a story about talking to an old race horse trainer about betting on the horses. The trainer told him, "You've got to bet every day because if you don't, you won't know when you're lucky." In the same way, the painter had to paint every day because if he didn't he wouldn't know when the magic would happen. And we've got to do a little relationship work everyday because if we don't we won't know when we're loved.

So there's sadness, joy, some work to do—and there is hope, too. This is Holy Week. The week when the Christian church remembers another death that seemed too early. Jesus was only 33 or so when he was killed. Because of his death and of what we celebrate this Sunday—Easter Sunday—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—everything changed. Death—too early, or not—is no longer the end.

And the song we heard earlier, Tracy Chapman singing The Promise, gets a whole new meaning. Allan may not be coming back, but there is someone who is:
If you wait for me then I'll come for you,
If you think of me
If you miss me once in awhile
Then I'll return to you
I'll return and fill that space in your heart
That’s something like Jesus said in our second reading:
Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me.
Think of me and miss me once in a while. Then he made a promise:
There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
In The Promise Tracy sang:
Although I've traveled far
I always hold a place for you in my heart
Jesus always holds a place for you and me in his heart. Not only that. Jesus says he has gone on ahead to prepare a place in heaven for you and me if we want it.
If you think of me
If you miss me once in awhile
But I don’t always think of him and I don’t always miss him. In that, I'm like Thomas when he said, "No, we don't know the way, Lord. We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way? We’re busy with living life and all the activities under heaven. Some days are fun—we laugh and dance. Some days are like this.

And just as Jesus told Thomas, he tells us, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. So don’t let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.

And Stacy sang:
If you can make a promise
If it's one that you can keep,
I vow to come for you
If you wait for me and say you'll hold
A place for me in your heart.
Then, Jesus says—Jesus promises—when everything is ready,
I'll find my way back to you,
just as the song says, so that you will always be with me where I am. There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you, if you want one. That’s a promise. You can bet on it. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly.