Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Funeral address for B.

I want to begin at the end.  At the end of today’s service we’ll hear a song that B loved. The chorus of Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’ says:

But if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like
Nothing changed at all?
And if you close your eyes
Does it almost feel like
You’ve been here before?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?
How am I gonna be an optimist about this?

If you close your eyes, I am sure that the reason that we are here today will seem totally unreal. With your eyes closed, it’s easy to imagine that this is all a dream and that B is still here. Not ‘nothing changed at all.’ Far from it - everything has changed.

But actually everything changed from the first moment you met B. Born to D & Y along with A and J - all desperately wanted. But B was a unique spirit - living life to the full with his mates, but also the sensitive one - the deeply empathetic one - the one who could tap into your deepest needs or concerns.

Yet, to quote the song again, ‘How am I gonna be an optimist about this?’ How can we find some hope in the midst of the broken-hearted awfulness of this? I believe we can by looking to B and looking to God.

The words from the Bible we heard Maggie read earlier are from Psalm 121, from a song book in the middle of the Old Testament. The Psalms catch life with all it’s joy, hope, dreams, frustrations, anger, and tragedy and bring them all to God.

Psalm 121 is sometimes called ‘the travellers psalm’ as it was sung by families as they made their way to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple. In that sense it’s quite apt we hear it as we remember B today, who loved to travel whether that was holidays with the family or charting off on his own at almost the drop of a hat whether to the States, Canada, Central America, or planning a backpacking trip to India - or just off out in the car (with others having to enjoy, probably more likely endure his legendary driving).

The mountains, to which the writer of the psalm looks, can be majestic and invite exploration, but they are also full of unseen danger. B probably would have watched a program on the Discovery channel about them and would be eager to explore them, but he will have been totally unafraid of what they harboured.  As those families travelled to Jerusalem, they looked to the mountain ranges they had to cross, filled with foreboding, wondering where their help would come from. It is in this situation that the writer of the Psalm declares: “My help will come from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” 

What was true then, remains true today. As we go through the light valleys and dark ravines of life, God is there to help, if we let him. He doesn’t force Himself upon us, but he is there if we will but turn to Him. God doesn’t guarantee that difficulties will never occur, but He does promise that when trouble arises, He will be right there in the midst of it. Maybe that was why Ben was so fearless in life and so fearless and peaceful in death - God was with unnamed and unknown all the way, even through his last journey.

There will be days when it will feel like B has been snatched away from you; days when it will just feel like he has been called home. Either way, death is awful, and yet there are some things that it cannot take from you the memories you hold in your hearts, the stories we have and will share. You have become different people, gone different places, made different choices because of B.

People of faith, especially those who call themselves Christian, believe in a God who, as the writer of the psalm says, watches over our every move, who protects us from all evil, at all times and in all places, but not just in the technicolour parts of your life with Ben.  Christians believe that God is also with us in the black and white and bleakness. But not just from somewhere on high.

We have just celebrated Christmas, when we remember God leaving the ‘on highness’ of heaven and getting down and dirty with us here in Jesus. God knows our life in Jesus - who experienced the technicolour parts of life, but also experienced bleak monochrome of death on a cross.

Where was God on the day B died? Watching from on high? On a lunch break? No, He was right there beside B.  Jesus, trained as a carpenter Himself, was right with B, through his death and beyond it.  Just as God gave new life to Jesus through His Resurrection from the dead, so God offers new and eternal life to B and to all of us today.

This is how we become an optimist in this, as the song asks. By remembering B as he was and always will be; by allowing him to be called home to God, all too soon for us, but trusting that He’s at rest and at peace; by claiming the sure and certain hope that death is not the end because of Jesus’ death on the cross and by accepting God’s promise of new life and new hope is real and offered to each of us because of Jesus’ Resurrection.

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