Thursday, 26 March 2015

For Rose—a Short Funeral Homily with Reference to Revelation 21, John 11 and Psalm 139

Jesus was intimately connected with life when things went seriously wrong. He still is. Things had gone seriously wrong for Mary, Martha and Lazarus in our reading from John (11.17-27). A life had been cut short. Jesus’ friends were disappointed in him. They were in bitter grief. They believed he could have prevented Lazarus’ death had he been there. But he wasn’t and, in Lazarus’ case, he had other plans. Lazarus was raised to die again another day.

Wee Rose didn’t even make it to birth alive. There is disappointment and grief for her, too. It’s different because we never got a chance to know her. And we wonder if, had Jesus been somehow closer, he could have prevented her death, too. The fact is, he could have, but he didn’t. That’s as hard to accept for us as it was for Mary and Martha.

How do we come to terms with that?

Jesus was all about life—abundant, rich, exuberant, better, eternal life. “Your brother will rise again,” he said to Mary and Martha. So will Rose.

I remember reading once about someone who asked a pastor to say a little prayer about something. To which the pastor—a famous one I seem to remember—replied, “There is no such thing as a little prayer.”

Today I want you to know that there is no such thing as a little life, either. Rose may have been little. Her life with us on earth may have been short, and hidden from most of us, but hers was not a little life. No life is. God made Rose and made her life full and complete. We wish we could have shared more of it with her and we will, if we so choose to join Jesus in that new heaven and earth (Rev 21.1) we heard about in the passage from Revelation—where, not only will Jesus reign, every tear will be wiped away, death, mourning, crying and pain will be no more, and all things will have been made new (Rev 21.4-5). Something to look forward to.

And in the meantime, it is comforting to be reminded in the words of Psalm 139 we read earlier that Rose was never alone (The Book of Alternative Services p897, vv12-15). She was knitted together in her mother’s womb, marvellously and wonderfully made, never hidden from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who made and wove her little body in secret and with great love. She is not alone now.

Neither are we. Psalm 139 again—The One who knows us, from whose presence it is impossible to flee—though we climb up to heaven, make the darkest grave our bed, take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there his hand leads us and holds us fast (The Book of Alternative Services p897, vv6-11). No matter what. And if that’s true, he’s certainly here with us now.

Not only that, we also have each other. And, more than that, we have the words of Jesus to carry us along and guide us. “Your brother will rise again,” he told Martha. So will Rose. And as Jesus said to Martha, so he says to us, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

So let us, as we join together in praying the Apostles Creed, reply with faith and confidence as Martha did by saying “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus.