Friday, 13 November 2015

A Short Funeral Homily with Reference to Rev 7.9-12 and John 14.1-6: for Shirley Corbett

Jesus said, “Don’t be troubled.” (John 14.1) Don’t be troubled? How can I not be troubled? It seems to me poor Shirley Corbett had to lie in that bed at Masterpiece, unable to communicate with those who love her, for way longer than she deserved. And there’s a myriad of other things that trouble me, too; sick friends, strained relationships, addictions that I can’t control, and on and on—not to mention it being Friday the Thirteenth. Tell me how I can not be troubled and rise above all of that!

Jesus said “Don’t be troubled” to his disciples because he loved them and to prepare them for what he knew was to come. He knew his crucifixion and death would cause them great fear and pain. A couple of chapters later, after describing some of the additional troubles they would face, Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16.33)

“In this world you will have trouble.” True enough and Shirley certainly had her share, but if there was anyone who lived by what he said next; “Take heart! I have overcome the world,” it was Shirley Corbett. “You trust God,” Jesus said in our reading from John, “now trust in me.” (John 14.1) And Shirley did. I will never forget her faithfulness in bringing Chantel and Mensha to St Barnabas, having taken responsibility for their care at the age of seventy, I believe, when Mensha was eighteen months old, I can’t remember how old you were, Chantel, and I know she’s still trusting in Jesus for their welfare and benefit. I admire Shirley Corbett because, whatever the trouble and the set-backs she faced, even when she was unable to communicate she never gave up on trusting in Jesus. I could tell even in her last years with us by the way her face lit up whenever she heard the old familiar prayers from the prayer book. 

Consider the fruit of that trust according to the readings we’ve just heard. First, a room and a place for her in the heavenly home of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ himself (John 14.2) because Shirley knew where Jesus was going and how to get there (John 14.3). And, she’ll be one of that vast crowd, we heard about in the reading from Revelation, standing in front of the throne and before Jesus clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” who is Jesus. Something to hear! And Shirley now, freed to speak again after these last few years of speechlessness and to join in the celebration, gets to enjoy that, her new room and the exuberant worship, perhaps even dancing, for all eternity. 

At times like this, when I’m trying to come to terms with trouble and suffering and things that don’t seem fair, and death, I find myself hoping and believing—trusting—that Jesus is right, trusting in him is the only Way, Truth and Life (John 14.6) which can bring me through life’s troubles alive. I hope, as I know Shirley would, that you will choose to do the same. James, Chantel and Mensha, I’m sure if your Grandma Shirley could speak to you now she’d say she is hoping and praying that you will, too, in the church she loved so much.  

“And all the angels…fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang, 
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom 
and thanksgiving and honour 
and power and strength belong to our God 
forever and ever! Amen.”

And, now, with God’s help, as we continue our worship this afternoon, if we incline our hearts just so and listen very carefully, we might just hear Shirley’s voice among them.