Saturday, 17 March 2012

A Funeral Sermon with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, John 14:1-6 - for Dr Ramzi Suidan


To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Seasons, times and purposes. It sounds as if the Doc has made the most of most of them in one way or another. I’m sorry that I never met him. From the obituary, it sounds as if he took life by storm—a fighter, a doer of heroic feats, a barker with a quick and powerful jab. Or, in the language of the passage from Ecclesiastes: a forthright planter, a decisive plucker-up of things, a killer of obstacles, a healer by profession, a resourceful builder-up of things, a straight-talking speaker (in seven languages, no less), a determined hater of disease and evil who made war against such things.  A strong man who did things on his own terms.

And yet, as the Ecclesiastes passage also says, in the midst of our seasons, times and purposes, there is for all of us—even strong, accomplished, heroic men like Dr Suidan—a time to be broken down and to die.  And we are left with this season, and this time; to lose, to mourn and to weep.

The obituary also described Dr Suidan as “undefeated and undisputed,” but for us and especially for Betty Lou, Burke and Jessica, seasons and times like this are hard. If life is a battle to be won, we feel defeated. If life is an argument we feel as though we’ve lost it.

What on earth can we do with that at times like this? The song, “You Raise Me Up,” we heard Nancy sing a few moments ago describes the situation well. When someone who has been such a strength and a joy in our lives is gone, we feel utterly bereft:
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
…was the first line she sang. If ever we needed someone strong strong enough to raise us up, so we can stand on mountains, walk on stormy seas, as the song says, it is on days like this. Someone strong enough to make us feel strong, someone who strong enough to carry us on his shoulders when we feel unable to go on. Someone who us able raise us up to be more than we can be. For some of you the Doc was such a man, who left a huge footprint, as Herbert said,but now he is gone.

There is another. He was a Palestinian, too.  And a lover and an amazing fellow, just as Dr Witzke described Dr Suidan. And, like Dr Suidan, a man who impressed and astounded and confounded those around him. He, too, was complex and an enigma to many. He had a verbal jab that was quicker than the wit of those foolish enough to enter into disputes with him. He is someone who is not only larger than life, but larger than death. His name is Jesus, Son of the Most High God, LORD and Saviour, Light of the World. The One who, knowing that there will be seasons and times like this when we are down and soul-weary, said in our second reading to the confused, soon to be grieving disciples he loved:
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
It sounds to me as if Ramzi Suidan was a man who knew exactly where he wanted to go in life and the way to get there. If he had any questions about the mystery of life and death, they will now be answered. For us, the questions remain; just as they did for Thomas when he said:
Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? 
To which Jesus replied:
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Clear and to the point. The way, I have the impression, the Doc would speak of something important to him.

Why did Jesus say all that? Because, just as Dr Suidan had great dedication to his patients, as we read in his obituary, and made time for them and fought to provide the best possible outcomes for them, so did Jesus for his disciples and for us—to the point of death. Jesus wants us all to get out of this alive.

This, he said, is how. Trust in God. Trust in me. I am The Way, follow my example. I am The Truth. Learn about that truth in the Scriptures. I am The Life. My heart now beats in my body on earth, the Church. Become a part of it so your heart will come to beat in time with mine. The Church is where my truth is taught and where you learn to live your lives in The Way I teach.

In this season and time of our lives, to ponder God’s purposes in all of this, and to act on it, would be a good way to honour the memory of Dr Ramsi Suidan and the legacy he leaves behind.

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