Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Matter of Timing: a Short Funeral Homily for Dr Jack Edwards—with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3.1-8 and John 14.1-6

Jesus, his life and death, his words, some of which we’ve just heard, and him risen from the dead, is the best context in which to make sense of times like this; life and death and all the wonder and mysteries they bring.

Life is all about timing and “there is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven” we heard in the first reading from Ecclesiastes. It goes on to give us a pretty realistic list of the times and activities of life—all of which Jack experienced in his almost ninety-four years and, in particular, “A time to be born and a time to die,” the timing of which in Jack Edward’s life is why we’re all here this morning.

And there are a couple of times and activities which are especially appropriate for Jack like the “time to heal” (Ecc 3.3 NLT)—his profession which was so well described by Dr Davis in his eulogy; exercise time, also described by Dr Davis, to avoid rusting out; and the “time to keep” (Ecc 3.6 NLT); which reminds me of keeping time in music-making—one of his favourite past-times—in my experience always together with Margaret—the love of his life—I can see them at the keyboards together still. The music before and after this service was chosen to recognize that. Jack's sons and daughter told me about how, as children, they would go to sleep to the sound of that music and wake up to it, too. Ken told me about how he was tired of a song they played over and over again, so he asked them if they could please learn a new one.

Be that as it may, on days like this, one might be tempted to think with Jack’s death and this time for us to lose, cry and grieve, that the music has faded, Jack’s time is up and your’s and my time will be up one day, too, and that’ll be that.

But before we go there, consider the other reading; the words of Jesus. And here’s timing again. Amid all the millions of times, seasons and activities in the world,
When the fullness of time had come… (Gal 4.4 ESV) 
God, the Father, sent his Son Jesus, Saviour and LORD, for the love of the world.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. (Rom 5.6 NLT) 
As the time of his death on the Cross drew near, Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for how they’d feel when he’d been crucified and they thought his time was up and it was all over.
Don't be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There 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. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there. (John 14.1-4 NLT)
But they didn’t, of course. They weren’t able to get their heads around the future he was describing. As far as they could see, that timing couldn’t have been right.
"No, we don't know, Lord," Thomas said. "We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14.5 NLT)
When Jesus was killed, they thought his time was up and they’d just misunderstood him. But Jesus was raised from the dead and went on ahead to prepare those rooms so they (and we, if we want) can always be with him where he is—note the time and the tense. Time wasn’t up then and it’s not up now.
I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus told Thomas, “No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6 NLT)
“When we’ve been there ten thousand years” we heard in Amazing Grace at the beginning of the service, “bright, shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.” The music continues; I’d like to think that Jack and Marg will be a part of the band.

At just the right time, the way to the Father’s house and home of that heavenly chorus was revealed in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus.

UPDATE: and see the homily for Jack's wife, Marg, from October 2010 here.