Sermon by Canon Clifford Carr
At the private requiem liturgy and committal for the family
Trinity Easton, April 2, 2017
[A memorial and celebration of Jan's life, open to the community, will be held at Trinity Easton on Saturday, April 22 at 2:00 p.m.]
And so through all the length of days thy goodness faileth never:
Good Shepherd may I sing thy praise within thy house for ever.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water....."
She was nourished with your body and blood,
grant her a place at the table in your heavenly kingdom.
The hour is coming and now is,
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
These words of scripture, hymn and prayer are words of promise and hope .... words of homecoming and welcome. At a time of death and sadness they speak to us of the hope that is ours as the People of God. They assure us that we have a share in the eternal life of God, in that place where the shepherd knows us by name and where we will join with the angels & archangels and all the company of heaven to sing the praises of God.
We hear, sing and pray words like this at the time of death because we Christians believe that life is not ended in death. We believe that Jan's life continues in a new form in a new place, for although the body has died, her spirit has been born again into a glorious and wonderful life - a life that we will share with her one day, for not even death can separate us from the love of God in Christ.
The Prayer Book is quite clear in saying that what we do here this afternoon is an Easter liturgy. We wear white vestments, the Easter candle, which is lit at every baptism, burns now to symbolize the Risen Christ who scatters the darkness of sin and death. When Janet was baptized, the life of the Risen Christ was poured into her soul, she was anointed by the Holy Spirit and filled with the Spirit's gifts which would help and guide her throughout her earthly journey. From that moment, she belonged to Christ. And now she has traveled long and well through this part of her life and she has been raised up to her eternal home.
"We are an Easter People, and Alleluia is our song!" There's no doubt that Jan lived an "Easter Life" - she knew a lot about death, resurrection and new life, after having been in recovery for almost 37 years.... as someone passionate about gardening, she had faith that those dead bulbs and bare branches, those seeds sown, would come to life with the returning spring.
"Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green."
Those words of an English poet set to the music of a 15th century French carol were favorites of Jan, and yet one more way she shared her Easter Faith with us. For her the mature grain in the sheaf of wheat was a direct symbol of the Resurrection: the life beyond the grave, the fulfillment of the baptismal promise.
In our youth, Jan, Dan & I were formed and nurtured in our faith by the hymns of the Hymnal 1940, and I remember one hymn which was always sung at funerals, but which did not make it into the current hymnal. "Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand." -- the third verse began with these words which have stayed with me for more than 60 years: "O then what raptured greetings on Canaan's happy shore, what knitting severed friendships up, where partings are no more...." I'm looking forward to that - and of course I also expect rare roast beef & good scotch along with a grand organ of many ranks! Just think of the noisy reunion there has been with Jan and all those who have gone before her as she now takes her place in the heavenly choir.
The question, of course is, will she sing alto or tenor?
At any rate, she will celebrate the Easter feast at a different table and on a distant shore in a place prepared for her from the moment of her baptism. In baptism we are marked and sealed as Christ's own forever - that's a long time. ... far longer than 78 years. Eternity is a reality - God delivers - it's letting go at this end that's tough - the rest is a snap!
On an occasion such as this, I once heard her say that there are people who "stand on the God-ward side" of us ... People who help us see what God's love is all about. ... That God's love is for everyone. That's God's love is to be celebrated – that God's love is about being an "Alleluia people" – that God's love is about living life to the fullest – enjoying the gifts of God: Good music, good food, good works ... good giving & living.
Jan was one of those people for many of us.
Dan, Beth, Kira & David – you and those close to you will hear many things about this special woman in the days and weeks to come – things that you know and things that are perhaps a surprise. In the hearing and telling of these stories you will be reminded that she was someone who lived out her love for God and for you as best as she was able. In all of this you will not only remember her, but you will also learn something of the power, grace, hospitality and generosity of God. It is Jan's continuing gift to you.
May she Rest in Peace and Rise in Glory!