This week is unusual in that we lay to rest two people who, in different ways, impacted the work in our Circuit. Today (Tuesday), at Youghal Methodist Church, we laid to rest Gordon Good, a longstanding member of both the church and the community.
It was a meaningful time as we prayed, reflected on Gordon’s life, and sang to wonderful organ accompaniment some of the great hymns of our faith.
Tomorrow, at Cork, we lay to rest David Wellcome. He too a longstanding worshipper at Cork, and indeed, in and around various fellowships throughout Cork city.
Rev Robin Roddie preached the sermon at Youghal. He touched on the hope we have, even in the midst of despair, citing a past dean of St Pauls. He was an effective and popular communicator whose leadership extended beyond the walls of the church. His relatable faith reflections found him writing for newspapers as well. As one write, with tongue firmly in cheek, put it: ‘He went from being a pillar in the church, to having two columns in the Evening Standard’.
Though the dean and his wife suffered profound loss in the too-soon passing of their young daughter, out of that he wrote of a faith that can minister even into that deep grief.
As we celebrate All Saints Day this week, we thank God for all those who have gone before – whose lives shimmered with the good news found in Jesus; we thank God for those people for whom Paul’s words – ‘Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting?’ (1 Corinthians 15: 55) - became a lived reality, and for the way their light has lit up our own paths. We pay tribute to those who have gone before, who instilled a deep-set belief in the presence of God - a God always faithful, slow to anger, and abounding in love.
As Rev Roddie pointed out, our lives are bracketed by the miracle of birth and the mystery of death. That death is a mystery is not a new thought to us and Paul’s confidence in 1 Corinthians 15 (above) is tempered somewhat by a remark he makes earlier in that same letter. Towards the end of his breathtaking rumination on love he makes an admission: ‘when completeness comes’ all will make sense, but till then it is like looking through a glass darkly. How are we to understand this mystery? Can we get a foothold of hope in the face it?
Years ago now I heard this story which has so helped me to understand death, and the hope we find in God. Comparing death to the passage of a ship, Bishop Brent wrote this poem, titled simply ‘The Ship’:
What is dying I am standing on the seashore, a ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says: "She is gone." Gone! Where Gone from my sight that is all. She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination. The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone" there are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout: "There she comes!" and that is dying.
Don't forget to check out:
This week's sermon from Cork delivered by Mr Charles Payne
Seven Questions for reflection for this coming week