Saturday, 11 March 2017

Following Directions: a Short Funeral Sermon with Reference to Ecclesiastes 3.1-8 and John 14.1-6—for Rita Yolanda (Castelani) Todd

There is a time for everything,

a season for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve…(Ecc 3.1,2 & 4)
Jesus had first hand experience of death and grief during his short life under heaven. He wept over his friend Lazarus when he died (John 11.35). He wept over the coming destruction and suffering for Jerusalem (Lk 19.41). He comforted Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha. He also comforted his disciples with the words we just heard in the reading from John's gospel because he knew they, too, would soon be in mourning over his death. "Don't be troubled," He said to them (and to us). "You trust God, now trust in me."

Even when we're celebrating a life like Rita's, who loved and enjoyed life, as Mickey wrote, lived to a good old age (Gen 15.15) and died full of years (Gen 25.8), there's still a sense of loss and sadness. And occasions like this bring us, who are still living out our times and seasons under heaven (Ecc 3.1), face to face with the great mystery of death and life. You've heard all the questions and have probably asked them yourselves. Why is there suffering and evil? Why are some lives so short and others so long? Why to bad things happen to good people?And on and on. All Rita's questions about those mysteries will have now been answered, but what about us? What is there to help us who are still busily tearing down and building up, crying, laughing, grieving, dancing, loving and hating and living through the list we heard about in Ecclesiastes? Do we just have to accept that we all have our time to be born, that we go through the list of seasons and activities we've been assigned and then we die? Or, is there more?

That's what Jesus is saying. There is more and it's good. Don't worry about it. Just trust. Trust in God and trust in me, he says. Especially in the hard times and seasons, even when they don't seem to make any sense, because I've looked after it for you. I've been through it all and gone on ahead to prepare a place for you that is so over-the-top delightful and good that everything you've ever experienced, no matter how good or bad, painful or pleasurable, pales in comparison. You can't earn it, or do good enough to deserve it, all you can do is believe in me and what I say, and one day, when everything is ready, I will come and get you so you will always be with me where I am (John 14.3) with your own room in my Father's heavenly home. Some of you, like Thomas, may not know the way to the place Jesus describes. Some of you may have forgotten and need to be reminded of the directions. Some of us are men, who are reluctant to ever ask for directions even when we totally lost. Notice Thomas didn't ask for directions either. But Jesus gave them to him (and us) anyway.

"I am," he said. I am The Way, follow my example. I am The Truth. Learn about that truth in the Scriptures. Rita's grandmother was right when she told them "everything you want to know or do can be found in that book!" I am The Life. My heart now beats in my body on earth, the Church. Become a part of it so your heart will come to beat in time with mine. The Church is where my truth is taught and where you learn to live your lives in The Way I teach.

Enjoy your life like Rita did! Live it to the hilt! But what Jesus wants us to know is that the best, most satisfying, safest, most secure, most joyful way to live our times and seasons under heaven is follow the directions given by Jesus.