Friday, 17 July 2015

Trusting: a Short Funeral Homily with Reference to Revelation 21.1-7, Psalm 139 and John 14.1-6—for Carmen Codding

Jesus tells his disciples not to let their hearts be troubled at times like this in our gospel reading from John (John 14.1). Right. How on earth are we supposed to do that! How can we not be troubled when Carmen, and others that we’ve known, suffer and die too young, too soon, and especially, with Carmen, when she served God with such energy and passion for so long. Surely people like Carmen should be healed when we pray for them, should have been spared. Troubled is, perhaps, not a strong enough word for what Ed, their family and many of us are feeling right now. Some of us are downright, insert expletive here, angry.

So let’s dig a little deeper into what Jesus said and see if there’s anything that could help us not to be so troubled. Jesus said that to his disciples because he knew how grief-stricken, bereft and angry they’d be after he’d been arrested on jumped-up charges, tried in a kangaroo-court, and executed. He knew they’d be feeling something like we do and he loved them and wanted to help, comfort and encourage them.

So don’t let your hearts be troubled (John 14.1), he said, instead, “Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14.1) What exactly would we be trusting in if we decided to do that?

We’d be trusting that Jesus was telling the truth when he said there are many rooms in my Father’s house (John 14.2). It is a big, warm, comfortable, welcoming house to which Jesus says he has gone on ahead to prepare places for those who wish to join him (John 14.2). The house where God, himself, the Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, will have made everything new (Rev 21.5), as we heard in the reading from Revelation, and will live with his people, people like Carmen (and you and me, if we want) in a new way, where very tear will be wiped from our eyes, there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, no more pain (Rev 21.4).

We’d be trusting that, as bad as we may be feeling just now, there is a being, a perfect Father, a God who, as King David wrote in our reading from Psalm 139, knitted Carman, each one of you, and me together in our mother’s wombs, all fearfully and wonderfully made, each of us one of his unique, wonderful works (v14), of infinite value, and never hidden from God from before we were born, through all the days ordained for us and written in God’s book even before any of them came to be (v16), and all the way to the grave. Your knowledge, King David wrote, of Carmen, of each one of you, and me, is too deep. It is beyond understanding. O God, how difficult we find your thoughts. How many of the them there are. We don't understand all of them. We don't agree with many of them. And we have to suffer losses like this. We have to see loved ones and friends in pain and we can't fix them or make it go away. It hurts and we wish we could escape, run away. We'd like to just go to sleep or take something so we can skip all the pain and anguish. But even if we could do that, David writes, when we awake, and wherever we try and hide, we are still with You.

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ was present with Carmen when she finally went to sleep at St Joseph’s, whether she or Ed or anyone else felt it, or not, and he was present when she awoke in his house now completely and unassailably, out of harm's way. Think of it: Carmen went to sleep a sick, tired, weakened woman and when she awoke, an instant after, she was still, and even more wonderfully, with God, himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, with angels and all the host of heaven—and the laughter level went up, no doubt.

But still it hurts.

Trust in God? Trust also in Jesus? We trusted and look what happened! Some of you might have a question something like we heard from Thomas in John’s gospel reading: “Lord, we don’t know where Carmen is and why she had to go there at this time, and not only that, we don’t know where you went, so how can we know the way?” (John 14.5) To which, I believe—so did Carmen and so does Ed—Jesus still replies, “I am.” If you want to get out of this life alive. The only way is through me. I look after the reservations for those rooms in my Father’s heavenly home. I’m easier to find than you might think.

How do we find Jesus? Well, we could follow Carmen’s example in life. She knew the way. So does Ed. Carmen knew where Jesus is to be found. In His church; yes, the one full of hypocrites and sinners just like this one, and also, and more importantly, people like Carmen and Ed Codding. Jesus is also found in the Bible and in the people, like Carmen and Ed, who follow Him. To explore The Way, The Truth and The Life Jesus represents would be a good way to honour Carmen’s memory.

Let’s pray:
Lord Jesus, you claim to be the way, the truth, and the life. If what you claim is true, please guide me, teach me,  and open to me the reality of who you are. Give me an understanding that is coherent, convincing, and leads to the life that you promise.