Saturday, 8 October 2011

A Marvellous Mixture of Well-Being and Woe - And All Shall Be Well: a Funeral Sermon with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3, Psalm 23, John 14 and Julian of Norwich—for Bruce Van Wert

Julian of Norwich, one of the great Christian mystics, lived in an age—the last half of the fourteenth century—when life could truly be described as nasty, brutish and short for most people and yet in the midst of that, out of her deep Christian faith, she described life as “a marvelous mixture of well-being and woe.” She also wrote that in this marvelous mixture of life: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well, no matter what.”

The fact is that of late, Bruce and his family have had to deal with more woe—deaths that came too early—than most. It’s hard and it hurts. That’s also a fact.

Yet, if we so choose, like Julian in her hard and dark age, we can still focus on the well-being part of the mixture and say, “All shall be well, no matter what.”

The readings we just heard attest to it. Yes, as we heard in Ecclesiastes, there is woe: death (and times like this), killing, crying, grieving, hate and war. But, there is also the well-being of new birth, healing, laughter, dancing, love and peace. A marvelous mixture, indeed.

To that mixture, as we read in the twenty-third Psalm, add the LORD God himself, our good shepherd, who promises to provide rest in green pastures beside the still waters as He restores our souls. Yes, death is a fact, yet as we walk through its shadowed valley we need fear no evil, for He is with us—through all the marvelous mixture of the days of our lives, closer than we ever think. Even in the midst of all our woes there can be the well-being that comes from His goodness and mercy. And finally, King David writes, “I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” And all shall be well, no matter what.

Which brings us to Jesus and what he said in the reading from John’s gospel. Jesus knows we keep coming face to face with the woe part of life’s marvellous mixture, so he says 1"Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me.” There is a home waiting for us if we want it where all shall be well—forever. “2There 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.” Home. Rest, green pastures, still waters, restoration in the house of the LORD for ever. And all shall be well.

How do we get there? Make a reservation with Jesus, who he tells us, is The Way, The Truth
and The Life—the only way home.

In the meantime, honour Bruce’s memory by making the most of the marvelous mixture of the life and the time you have been given. Make sure the people you love know it before you go to bed tonight. Tomorrow might be too late. Don’t allow resentment and estrangement to continue. Life is too short for that. Forgive. Be reconciled. Decide whether Jesus is speaking the truth. If you want one of those rooms, make sure your reservation is confirmed with Him. And then, all things shall be well and all manner of things shall, indeed, be well. No matter what.