Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Short Funeral Homily: for Gloria Bish—with reference to John 8 and Matthew 18

And now, let's take a few moments to reflect on Gloria's life in the light of Scripture so, with God's help, we may find light in our darkness, faith in our doubts and comfort for one another.

You will have noticed, no doubt, how many times the folk who shared their good memories of Gloria spoke of angels. Light is another theme I've noticed as I met with Gloria's family and listened today. Which leads me to this verse from the Bible: 
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12—all verses from the NLT) 
In a little while, according to Gloria's wishes, we'll all be lighting a candle to take outside as a symbolic act which has its roots in that verse. Gloria was a follower of Jesus and a carrier of his light among the people and babies she served with such commitment and passion. In her actions Gloria Bish held up the light of Jesus so people who were going through some dark times could see the way through. 

Lala loved her babies. So does Jesus. Listen. 
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me." (Matthew 18:2–5)
If ever there was a welcomer of little children it was Gloria Bish. In that, once again, she was reflecting the light of the world himself, Jesus, so people didn't have to walk in total darkness. 

There is darkness, suffering and sorrow in the world. Days like this bring it home. Jesus was real about it. He continues in the passage I just read: 
Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of my heavenly Father. (Matthew 18:10)
Jesus had a special concern for the "little ones." Whatever their weight, as if each one is the only one in the whole world. So did Gloria.  "Their angels," Jesus said, "are always in the presence of my heavenly Father." (Matthew 18:10) Their angels. The little ones have angels. What do angels do? They are God's messengers—like Gabriel who visited Mary with news of a baby—the are "servants—spirits sent to care for people who will inherit salvation." (Hebrews 1:14) Angels strengthen people going through hard times—like Jesus praying desperately in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified (Luke 22:41–43). 

There are angels among us, as the songs says. The Bible tells us so. Gloria wasn't an angel. None of us are, or will be. Humans are humans and angels are angels, but Gloria behaved like one as she carried the light of Jesus so well into the darkness of so many people's lives. 

By doing what she did the way she did it, Gloria Bish also set us a timely example. Her loving service which strengthened and lit the way for so many people has left us a message to ponder as we who are left continue our walk in this world. The verse with which I began says it well:
I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. (John 8:12)
 said Jesus, and earlier in John's gospel:
The light shines in the darkness,  and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5)
 That light, of course, is Jesus.