Thursday, 10 July 2014

Jesus: Worthy of Trust—a Short Funeral Homily with reference to Ecclesiastes 3, Psalm 103 and John 14: for Donna Tennant

Jesus is the one walking and talking in the song. In a garden. Donna loved gardening. God started everything in a garden. A good place to start.

Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled” (John 14.1) in the reading we just heard from John’s gospel. Tough call on days like this. Death is troubling. Endings and departures can be hard even when we know they’re coming sooner or later. Grief is troubling. It’s troubling to be reminded, if only for a few hours, our own mortality. It can be troubling to have to spend time with folks we’d rather not, or be reminded of hurts and misunderstandings, given and received, to be reminded of things we should have done, or said, but didn’t; and the things we did, or said, but wish we hadn’t. Troubling.

The solution? Jesus provides it. “Trust in God.” (John 14.1) Deceptively simple. Even a bit simplistic at first glance. But think about it. In who and what are we being asked to trust? The One who inspired the writer of our first reading from Ecclesiastes to to write, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” (Ecc 3.1) And he goes on to list many of them; birth and death, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, love and hate—even dancing, for heaven’s sakes! Pretty real and trustworthy, I would say. We’re experiencing some real life ourselves now because of Donna and The One who created her. Donna lived ninety-four years of times and seasons—a real lady said John, shy, quiet, reserved, her family tells me; yet assertive enough to elope with Alec, her sweetheart, to Taber in 1938; a woman whose home nobody ever left hungry, a gardener and lover of animals who also kept her own personal list of the times and seasons of all the activities of her life in a journal. Jesus is inviting us to trust in a real God who knows that real life is not simple, who knows all the details, journeys with us through it all even, especially, when we feel all alone. Sometimes lives are long, like Donna’s, sometimes not. Always complex. Rich. Real. Often mysterious.

Jesus says trust in the God to whom Psalm 103 was written, sung and recited in acts of worship for thousands of years, and read out loud as we honour Donna this afternoon. “Praise the LORD, O my soul!” (Ps 103.1, 2, 22) “Forget not all his benefits.” (Ps 103.2) Many of those benefits are then listed: forgiveness, healing (Ps 103.3), redemption, love, compassion (Ps 103.4), satisfied desires, youth renewed like an eagle’s (Ps 103.5). Love as high as the heavens are above the earth (Ps 103.11)—limitless, in other words. Someone who remembers that we are made from dust (Ps 103.14), that our earthly lives come to an end. Trust in a God worthy of trust and who is able to settle troubled hearts even in hard times.

And Jesus also said, “trust in me.” Is he worthy of our trust on a day like today? I believe so. Consider the third reading. He loved his friends. He knew how they were going to feel after he was gone. That’s why he told not to let their hearts be troubled, to trust in him and that there is more than enough room in his Father’s home for them. “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.” (John 14.1-4)

If we’re honest, at times like this most of us can relate to what Thomas says next. "We haven't any idea where you are going," he said, "so how can we know the way?” Thomas didn't know what was going on. Doubts and questions. We all have them. I believe Thomas’s honesty give us permission to be honest about our doubts and questions and faith or lack of it. Thomas gives us permission not to have all the answers. Doubt is allowed. It is often a part of a healthy, lively faith. Don’t let it put you off or cause you to give up. Jesus doesn’t so much provide the answer to all life’s questions as he provides us with grace we need to live with them. Besides, to quote Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher, Miguel de Unamuno, "Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”

Jesus says there is a way to God himself. His response to Thomas’ doubt and questions (and ours) makes it clear: “I am,” he said. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)

In other words, trust in me. Trust and know that I love Donna and every one of you, without reservation, as nobody else does. 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 Donna and for all of you—extremely well furnished—changed for the better, no more deterioration, for all eternity.

What is the trustworthy way to that roomy place Jesus is talking about? His answer is characteristically plain and simple. “I am,” says Jesus.