Friday, 8 November 2013

Seasons, Times, Activities and More Than Enough Room: a Short Funeral Homily with reference to Ecclesiastes 3 and John 14—for Georgina Van Wert

Jesus is the one whose presence sets the tone for so much of Georgina's life, he gives us more than enough room for our good memories of her and to help us cope with our grief and our questions today about life and the way things happen the way they do. She worked for him and his church here at St Barnabas. It was in his name she prayed for Bob as he's suffered through his health challenges over the years, for the welfare of her children and grandchildren. It was in Jesus name that Georgina helped the people who came to the door looking for food—her little grocery stash is called Georgina's Pantry. Georgina was a faithful follower of Jesus.

It is in his name we're all here this morning, recognizing, in the words of the first reading from Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
What a blessing it is for us all that there was a time for Georgina to be born! Everyone in this church has benefitted from her existence. Some of you even exist because she does. That Georgina's time to die has come is harder to think of as a blessing. It's a blessing that she's no longer suffering, but because of that, we are. It's not a blessing that her retirement was so short, that she became sick and died too soon, but it is a blessing that she is now in one of the rooms Jesus promised in the second reading where she is with Him where He is. Always.

When I met with Georgina's family to plan this, I happened to ask for an example of what they would say would be three things they remember Georgina for: without hesitation, her daughter, Pam said; animals, Elkwater and grandchildren. Three important activities under heaven for Georgina. I love the picture on the front of the leaflet. I'd also like to add three more from my years with Georgina: Bob, her kids and St Barnabas, especially her fifteen years as Church secretary. Her time here was a special season and activity in her life, my life and the life of this parish. It's as if the writer of Ecclesiastes knew her. For example, there were many times to plant in Georgina's seasons and activities in the St Barnabas office. What Georgina planted was love and encouragement. She built people up. There were many times to heal as she listened quietly and spoke kind words to people. There were times to cry; she cried—easily, and laughed easily, too. Never saw her dance, but I saw her gather the stones of St Barnabas' history over the years. She hugged well. She (and Kathy and Shirley) were really good at throwing things away, too. She mended old prayer and hymn books and hurt feelings. There were times when she was quiet and times when she spoke up, usually quietly. She loved well—especially, as we heard, animals, Elkwater and grandchildren–she hated unkindness and injustice. She also loved Jesus—still does.

As I said before, Georgina was a blessing. She continues to be, even today. In addition to the fond and happy memories of her we enjoy, because of her life and death, Georgina has provided us with an rich opportunity to think about what's important in life. We're all here because we either enjoyed a relationship with her, or with a member of her family. Occasions like this are a reminder that, sooner or later, all relationships end; whether by death, or decision or neglect. Do any of ours need attention today? Do any need a time of—in Ecclesiastes language—rebuilding, embracing, mending, speaking loving forgiving words, or just being quiet but present to the people we love? Is there pride, unforgiveness, offence or bitterness we ought to keep no longer, is it time to throw such relationship killers away? Georgina's life and death reminds us of how life's times, seasons and activities can often take us off guard. Georgina's life and death and what we're doing today are a pointed reminder that if we are struggling with troubled or neglected relationships, we ought to act now. Tomorrow might be too late. The people we love need to know it today. Tomorrow might be too late.

Jesus knew about all this. He loved his friends. He knew how they were going to feel after he was gone. That's why he said what he said in our second reading from John's gospel:
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 to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
Like Thomas, though, you might be thinking, “No, I don’t know, Lord. I have no idea where you went, or where Georgina has gone, I just know that she has gone, and too early, and it hurts, so how can I know the way?”

As Jesus answered Thomas, whom he loved dearly, so he also answers you and me who he also loves very dearly, through the words of Holy Scripture:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
In other words, I love every one of you, without reservation. I love you enough to die for you on the cross. I want all of you to enjoy one of those rooms in my Father's house. There's more than enough room for Georgina and there's more than enough room for you. All you have to do is trust in me—believe in my love for you—and take the hand I offer you through my church

Georgina believed that and she served Jesus in his church. Her life and death has provided me, and some of you, with a pointed and timely opportunity to consider whether we've still got a firm hold on that hand or we've lost our grip as life has happened. For some others of you who knew and loved Georgina, her life and death has given you this time to consider whether it might be wise for you take the hand that Jesus is offering. There's more than enough room and it would be a good way to honour our sister in Christ, Georgina.