Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Short Funeral Homily—for William Van Buskirk

Jesus is at the centre of all this. We're here to celebrate the life of William Van Buskirk who died old and full of years and to mourn his death, but we do it, at Bill's request, enveloped in the truth of the birth, life, teaching, miracles, death on a cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Lord and Saviour. Look at the first words I read at the beginning of our service on page 591. "I am." Who is? Jesus. In John's gospel—"the resurrection and the life." This morning Jesus comes to us in beautiful language. Elizabethan. Shakespearian. From The Book of Common Prayer (1962 Canada). Translated from a language and a culture even older.  It can be hard to get our 21st century ears around it, especially if we haven't grown up with it as Bill did. But it's worth the effort. Especially when we're doing what we're doing this morning because not only does it tell us something about Jesus, but it tells us something about Bill.

For example, Bill had those verses from Isaiah and Hebrews Jessica read earlier noted in his Bible. That he had a Bible with his own notes in it is revealing. Bill must have taken special comfort from those passages in particular.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee:
Be not dismayed; for I am thy God:
I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee;
Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (;kjv1900)
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. "
These verses show from who Bill drew his strength and who he believed was his helper—the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. They also give some insight into his character—hear are some of the words his family used to describe him to me as we were preparing for this service the other day: honest, integrity, consistent, an example, kind, gentle, quiet, modest. Canon James Robinson, his priest, at St Augustine's Anglican Church in Lethbridge, called Bill "a deeply faithful Christian," and told me about the generous transportation Bill provided in his little red truck. The church secretary there told me about how Bill would come in regularly to check the food donations box and top it up with what was needed. It's easy to give thanks for such a life.

Which brings me back to Jesus—another life for which we can be thankful—and The One from whom or about whom all the words of this service were written. What can we learn about him? More than I have time to cover this morning although you could learn more of him tomorrow morning here at St Barnabas at 830 and 1030 and at other times in church services all over the city and every Sunday. The learning never ends because, just as John wrote in the very last verse of his gospel,
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (;kjv1900)
Here are two things to go on with just from the beginning of this morning's service. Look again at the first words of the service on page 591:

  1. I am (Jesus is) the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in him, even when he (or she) dies, yet shall he (or she) live. Whoever lives and believes in Jesus shall never die. 
  2. Look at the verses on the bottom of the page. There is a place for those who believe in God and Jesus, his Son. A place Jesus has gone on ahead to prepare in his Father's house. A place with more than enough mansions, or rooms, for Bill and for you and me. If we want one and decide to accept Jesus' invitation to believe in him. 

If that is true, and I believe that it is—so did Bill—then although the earthly first part of his life is over, he lives on, as does Jesus.

To seriously consider the reality of Jesus, and him risen from the dead, in the stately, beautiful, grace-filled words we've heard and will hear in the rest of this service this morning and to decide to take the plunge of faith in him would be a good way to honour the memory of William Van Buskirk by following his example. It would also deliver you safe into the arms of Jesus.

Let’s pray:
Lord Jesus, you claim to be the resurrection 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 and the home that you promise.


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