Thursday, 27 August 2015

Witness To The Resurrection.

I once heard the American ‘humourist’ Joe Queenan commenting on funerals in his own country:

‘Funerals have become a cabaret.  There is no recognition that someone has died.  Eight or nine friends get up and tell jokes and talk about your golf game.’ 

I’ve never actually attended a funeral like that but I think I know what he means.  No one wants a funeral to be unduly morbid and a burden to those who attend but neither should it swing too much in the other direction.   Someone has died and that has had painful consequences in a family and in a circle of friendship.  That should be recognised.   I am grateful, however, that as a Christian pastor I can hold alongside that the hope that Jesus’ resurrection has brought to the world.   No matter how often I recite these words of Jesus they are always powerfully felt:

 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

It was encouraging to hear that this hope was emphasized in the recent funeral of Cilla Black. Yes there were the funny stories that you might expect but there was also a powerful witness from Sir Cliff Richard.  A troubled man these days but he shared his own faith and with great conviction sang a song of Christian hope.  I had never heard it before but it speaks of God’s faithfulness to his people through all the dark experiences of life and  through death itself:

‘I see your wounded hands, I touch your side
With thorns upon your brow you bled and died
But there's an empty tomb, and love for all who come
And give their hearts to You, the faithful One.’

I often reflect on the great privilege of conducting funerals for people who were greatly loved by those who were closest to them, but even more being able to bring to their moment of heartache the promises of Jesus that can never fail.   I cannot think of anything better than standing in the tradition of the earliest believers who regarded themselves as ‘witnesses to the Resurrection.’