Sermon by Matt Hiscock, Ordinand
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”
In the name of the Father and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit.
I imagine for many of us, today is quite difficult, to be here in this place finding ourselves reminded the times we have been bereaved, whether that seems a distant memory, or is too true to our current reality.
In this season of Remembrance who could blame any of us for seeking out answers to all our questions about the nature of death and the hope of eternal life.
We might base our conclusions by using all our theological education here
or use our skills to unpack scripture such as the gospel passage we have just heard.
We might hope that all this acquired knowledge or our deepened spiritual life or even our vocation and calling to ministry might somehow enable us to deal with all own losses.
That somehow for us it is easier to live in the hope that those we have known will be held in the mercy, love and peace of God.
That somehow because of what we are learning and who we are called to be it is easier for us to find the light amongst that dark shadow that death can so often cast on us.
But when we lose somebody it is only natural that it might feel as if our souls are bereft of peace, that in our grief we forget what happiness is. But for me, this particular service puts pay to our quite natural inclination to intellectualise; it allows for what Pope Francis calls a language of simplicity.
Where we create the conditions which make it possible to find God in the deep waters of his Mystery.
We all come here with all those in our minds who have now passed with all our own stories of them, the ways they have been instrumental in our lives, be they friends, or family, colleagues, children, parents, or priests. For each one of the departed, we take the awesome and complex nature of their lives now gone and those relationships we now deeply miss.. and we encapsulate it. we simply add a name to a list. And offer to God all that they were to us.
To some, this might seem strange or even careless. That we reduce these profound connections and relationships and personalities to just a few letters on a page when we are still missing and mourning those we love.
But that simple act signifies all those God given moments of love, bound up within those names. a love that never ceases.
These names represent perhaps those who have had a profound affect on who we are are as people, those who have taught us how to live, quite literally in some cases, or those whom we ourselves have given life to, those who have helped us to become who we are, who have given us insight or joy or strength. We are given the opportunity to remember all who they were in their time with us, and all that still are to us.
So that in the darkness through those names we can glimpse all the ways however big or small that they have reflected the light of Christ.
I myself add another name to that list.
My Aunty Molly, a lady who helped a great deal in raising me.
She taught me to read, to be curious about the world, to ask questions, to laugh and most importantly to to love unconditionally.
There is too little time and too many words to describe her to you.
Those letters spelling out Molly Webb are about the 26 years of joy and laughter and pain we shared. They represent her gentleness, her generosity of time, her willingness to challenge me when I was wrong. As I simply write down her name and hear it read out
I will see her warm smile. I will hear the last proper conversation we had as she was slowly dying in her beloved chair.I will feel her hand as she kept falling in and out of conciousness as her heart was failing. I will remember her eyes as she turned to look at me, sighed and said very slowly but still in her very characteristic well meaning but sharp manner:
“Oh Matthew,” she said, “you eat far too much bread!”
On the morning I got the phone call to say she had died my head was in a mess trying to align the hope of the faith I feel called to proclaim with the reality of the despair this news bought.
But as I sat quietly crying in Morning Prayer I could not help but feel saying those profound and poignant words we have heard from the Lamentations of Jeremiah
“Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.”
As someone who never stays for the eucharist in chapel after the morning office something made me stay. As Will placed the wafer into my hands and as I said Amen I felt myself replying to Aunty Molly’s last comment to me, and replying to her:
“You can never have too much bread.”
We take in all their simplicity bread and wine and in them find the pain, the suffering and outpouring of the love of Jesus Christ bound up within his body and his blood,
and know that in that simple act we are changed as people.
We are reminded of how he teaches us to live, we are strengthened and emboldened to become who we are more and more, and most importantly we are given the comfort and joy of the resurrection, that strength of hope.
In that simple action of receiving Christ’s body and blood we see more clearly the light that can often seem hidden. We are offered the chance to partake in his risen life, we acknowledge that death surely is not the end, for as it was for Christ so it is for us.
So today we come and hear those names of all the lives now gone and we commend them to God. We take into our hands bread, which is the bread of life and we live in the hope of the resurrection.I hope in these simple acts we can begin to make some sense of it all.
Perhaps find the God of life in those dark and murky deep waters of mystery.
Where we may find his son, offering himself so that we might be free.
The son who promises eternal life.