Saturday, 22 November 2014

On Jesus Being The Way, The Truth and The Life: a Funeral Homily for Olive Burles with reference to John 14.1-6

JESUS Christ, and him risen from the dead, is the way, the truth and the life of what I have to say to you this afternoon.

Jesus is the way in to our celebrating Olive's life because by him, all things were created in heaven and earth, visible and  invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers of authorities—or Olive Burles, or you and I—all things were created through him and for him. And I'm fascinated by the way it was the tragic and sinful tangle of thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities resulting in the Second World War also caused Olive, and so many other young women (including my mother), to meet, fall in love with and cross the seas to wed or raise families with young men from other countries. Amazing and courageous behaviour in the days when you couldn't just jump on a plane for a cheap flight home if you were homesick. Yet that was the way of it those days and Jesus was involved with all of them, whether they knew and acknowledged it, or not. His way was, and is, always to love; Olive, my mother, all their husbands and kids; all of us; always inviting us closer, never forcing, but always there offering a way, the only way, of getting out from under the sin and sorrow and darkness and death that life brings, alive. That is His way. And His is also the only way to one of those rooms in His Father’s house. I am the way, Jesus said, take it; take me.

Jesus is also the truth; The One who gives real meaning and hope to anything I, or anyone else, could ever say on an occasion such as this. Even though we all have kind and wise family members and friends who provide comfort and help, Jesus provides something more; a unique and trustworthy frame-work made up of divine, yet practical, teaching and the example of a selfless life which light our way as we go through the joys and sorrows and mysteries of life and death. Jesus is the truth in which we decide to believe, or not. For example, I can decide to believe that it is true that Olive was created through him and for him; that it is true that Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead; that he went on ahead to places for Olive and you and me (if we want one) and that Jesus is the only way to one of those rooms in His Father’s house. There is no other system of belief or code of behaviour that can get us there. Jesus is the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8.32). I am the truth, Jesus said, believe in it, believe in me.

And Jesus said he is the life. “I have come that you may have life," Jesus also says, "and have it abundantly“(John 10.10). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, Jesus, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3.16). That’s where the way and the truth that Jesus is takes us. To abundant and eternal life. I am the life Jesus said, live in me.

But “Lord, we don’t know where you are going,” said Thomas, “so how can we know the way?” (John 14.5) That’s true for most of us at some level or other at some time in our lives; perhaps especially when we come face to face with the reality of death. If Jesus is the way, how do I find it and get on it? That’s where the leap of faith comes in. Olive took one when she decided to risk leaving home and all that was familiar to marry Clarence and start a new life in Canada. She also would have had to take a leap of faith into Jesus at some stage in her life, just as you and I must do, when we decide to believe in God and believe also in Jesus (John 6.1); that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to save us from sin and death, that he has gone on ahead to prepare places for us in His Father’s heavenly home (if we want them enough to believe it’s true) and that when our time has come He will come back and take us to be with Him that we also may be where He is. And that, wonder of wonders, The Way, The Truth and The Life is, indeed, our risen Saviour and Lord, Jesus.