Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Being Ready Now: a Funeral Homily with Reference to 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21—for Marjorie Langdon

 NOW is Christ risen from the dead (1 Cor 15:20—BCP p595)
It's Advent. Christmas, we're waiting for—again (five sleeps if anybody's counting). Advent is also about our waiting, preparing and being ready for Jesus to come again, but Jesus is risen from the dead NOW.

Now, look at the top of page 596, because Jesus is risen from the dead NOW:
…even so in Christ shall all be made to live. (1 Cor 15:22—BCP)
Even so. Made to live. But everyone in their own order:
Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's (people like Marjorie Langdon) at his coming" (1 Cor 15.22-23—BCP p596)
Christ has died, Christ has risen NOW, Christ will come again!

I believe Marjorie is one of those "that are Christ's," who believed in her bones that Jesus is risen NOW, and so she was ready for his return, or to go a meet him.

Marjorie and I didn't agree on everything. She had definite opinions on the way God should be worshipped and with which books, for example. She didn't particularly care for my guitar playing and some of my changes to our style of worship. If she wanted to hear that kind of music, she once told me at the door on her way out, she could listen to the radio. But we agreed about Jesus and his Resurrection. I had absolutely no doubt that she was a woman of great faith—a faith that endured through some hard things for her. We have evidence of that today in her choice of readings and hymns. For example, notice the Psalm we prayed earlier. Psalm 46, about God being her hope, her strength and her very present help in trouble (v1—BCP p388)—she suffered plenty of trouble through her years of severe arthritic pain and immobility.

The hymns she chose and which were written in her Bible also give a good sense of that firm, determined faith and how important Jesus was to her.
JESUS, SAVIOUR, pilot me! we sang earlier. 
O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end," we'll sing shortly,
"O guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then in heaven receive me,
My Saviour and my Friend.
These last few years Marjorie's was, indeed, as we also sang earlier,"A dark and toilsome road." "O guide me through the desert here," Marjorie prayed no doubt, and had us sing, "And bring me home at last." Home at last. How did Marjorie know she had a Pilot, a Saviour and Friend?

She and Dorothy told me that they gave their lives to Jesus while listening to the Sunrise Gospel Hour—now the Oldest Gospel Radio Broadcast still produced in Alberta, seventy-seven years straight, by the way—they were too far out in the country for regular Sunday Church going. Kathleen told me, their mother would regularly call the three girls in from whatever they were doing in the yard to listen to hymnsings on the radio. Kathleen also told me she didn't start going to church until she was twenty. And yet the seeds had been well sown, and with the help of their parents, roots were solidly established in Jesus. And those beginnings led to them, all three, becoming stalwart members of St Barnabas. Marjory was a follower of our Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—so was Dorothy and so is Kathleen.

So Marjorie was READY. Ready for the new Heaven and earth we heard about in the reading from Revelation where the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will be with her and "shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain and all things will be made new and good for ever and ever. Amen. It must feel good to be able to stand up straight, to move without pain again and to hear the heavenly choirs clearly. Who wouldn't want to be ready for that?!

Christ has died. Christ is risen NOW. Christ will come again. We don't know when. Jesus just says be ready.

So this Advent what might you and I take from Marjorie's example, the Scripture and hymns she chose for us to hear and sing and our good memories of her? A good way to honour Marjorie's memory this Advent and as Christmas is only a few sleeps away would be for you and me to consider our state of readiness to celebrate our Lord's birth on Sunday and for his approaching return.

Here are three Marjorie Langdon Memorial steps to readiness for the Lord's return:

  1. Invite Jesus to be risen from the dead in you NOW not keeping him locked up in some tomb of my own ailments, carelessness or sinfulness. 
  2. Invite Jesus to be born in you this Christmas.
  3. The best starting place is to simply say "Yes" to Jesus. In a moment you and I, too, will have the opportunity to do just that as we pray the Apostle's Creed together. For many of us it will be Yes again, for some of you it may be Yes for the first time in a long time, or the first time ever. Saying such a Yes would be a good way to honour Marjorie's memory by expressing your trust in the LORD—Pilot, Saviour and Friend—who was present all through her illness and loves her still. Saying such a Yes, and meaning it, would also place you, along with Marjorie, safe and sound in all the Yes's God promised in Jesus (2 Cor 1.19-20).

There is no better time than right NOW.