22 Oct 2017
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger

15 Oct 2017
This Too Shall Pass

8 Oct 2017
The Simple Truth: Head, Heart and Hands

1 Oct 2017
Humility – Staying close to the ground

2 Jul 2017
Welcoming the Silence

25 Jun 2017
Always Uniting…

18 Jun 2017
Are you ready for harvest?

11 Jun 2017
Don’t Blame it on the Snake

4 Jun 2017
Words Beyond Words: Breath Beyond Breath

28 May 2017
Seeing with new eyes

14 May 2017
Grace, Gracious and Graceful

30 Apr 2017
A Time for war and a time for peace

23 Apr 2017
Faithful Doubting

16 Apr 2017
God became human so that we could become divine!

12 Mar 2017
Wind of the Spirit

12 Feb 2017
From the Mountainside: The Impossible Dream?

22 Jan 2017
Grounding our Life and Faith

25 Dec 2016
That Humanity should become Divine

11 Dec 2016
Joy is for Everyone

4 Dec 2016
The Mingling of Water and Spirit

27 Nov 2016
Living Fully in the Present Moment

16 Oct 2016
Persistence and Justice

9 Oct 2016
Gratitude and Thankfulness

2 Oct 2016
Standing in the Tragic Gap

25 Sep 2016
Rich Man, Poor Man

4 Sep 2016
The Gift of Freedom

21 Aug 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

14 Aug 2016
We all need wise words to live by

31 Jul 2016
When Less is More

24 Jul 2016
Developing Healthy Relationships

17 Jul 2016
Died Wise

10 Jul 2016
Meeting Strangers on the Road

3 Jul 2016
On the Road Again

29 May 2016
Faith is the Answer

22 May 2016
The Way of Wisdom

15 May 2016
Icons and Stained Glass Windows – Inner light

8 May 2016
Unity and Oneness

1 May 2016
A Hidden Wholeness

24 Apr 2016
Lest we forget: What?

17 Apr 2016
God became human so that we could become divine!

3 Apr 2016
Thank God for St Thomas!

27 Mar 2016
Living life’s great contradictions

20 Mar 2016
Message of Peace

13 Mar 2016
Living Fully, Loving Wastefully

6 Mar 2016
Come Home, all is forgiven

28 Feb 2016
Simply, leave it alone

21 Feb 2016
Why do we “kill” our prophets?

7 Feb 2016
Keeping your Head in the Clouds

Sermons

Died Wise

17 July, 2016 Pentecost 9 By Rev Dr Christopher Page

The endings of life give life’s meanings a chance to show… Death isn’t a punishment, any more than dying is a punishment for being born.” ~Stephen Jenkinson

 

I want to start with the quote on the front of the Order of Service.  The endings of life give life’s meanings a chance to show… Death isn’t a punishment, any more than dying is a punishment for being born.” ~Stephen Jenkinson

If I have a single premise for this reflection it is that death is a fundamental part of life.  And I will repeat that in different ways in this brief reflection.  Perhaps you didn’t come to church this morning to hear about death, but I hope in the next few minutes I can convince you not only that it is an important subject, but also that a meaningful life means a contemplation of death.

We often say that taxes and death are inevitable, but from reading the Economic Review and the Business section of the Age lately, I have wondered whether taxes, for some people, are voluntary contributions.  So possibly death is the only thing that is truly inevitable.  Yes, death is inevitable.  In our culture, we don’t like conversation about death.  “Can’t we talk about something more uplifting,” someone will say.  We use euphemisms like passing away or passing over or other ways of softening the harsh truth about death and dying.  Nevertheless, whatever we call it, death is real, it can be painful, and it can change the lives of the living for the length of their lives.  It is a truth and in fact it is, with life, the greatest truth.

In the Christian faith we talk a lot about life and so we should.  Life is to be lived in all its fullness and abundance, but we implicitly know that one day, perhaps when we least expect it, life as we know it will come to an end…Mortal, human life that is. The fact is that our life does continue, even if it is in the memories of those we love and those who love us.

So how does life continue? The simple answer is: I don’t know. I’m not sure a minister is supposed to say that.  But let me tell you a personal story.  I was called to the bed of one of Anne’s family.  All the closer members of the family were gathered around the bed. Among them were atheists, agnostics, Christian believers, a Buddhist and others who probably had not thought about death for some time.  This middle-aged woman, who was 54 years old, was dying of cancer with only a few days to live. In the presence of all the family members she asked me, “Is there damnation?” I put my hand on her forehead and said, “No, there is no damnation.” “So where am I going?” she asked.  What answer could I give? What words should a Christian minister say to a woman who was about to pass through a doorway through which she had never been before.  I briefly looked around the room and said, “You are going into love…The love that is surrounding you right now.”  “Yes”, she murmured.

Since I have been at TUC I have conducted about 91 funerals.  These have been people of all ages.  And apart from a few, most did not expect or want to die.  And that is quite reasonable.  There is a God-given life force in us that seeks to live fully and hopefully.  And that is even with the knowledge that some day we will be deceased (die).   What I have come to believe is that funerals/thanksgiving services are valuable rituals for everyone and, strange as it may seem, even for the person who has died.  We often say funerals are for the living and there is truth in that, but during life, when I know that at the end of my life I will be honoured, talked about and thought of, it leads me to a richer and fuller life.  Any don’t worry, I have never heard a eulogy or tribute that speaks ill of the dead.

Stephen Jenkinson, the man from whom I stole the title of the reflection, says that dying is not the time to think about dying.  Dying is too important to leave to the end of life.  Reportedly, we are the only species who have an awareness of our mortality, that one day we will die.  Jenkinson also makes the comment that other than accidents and unforeseen events, we know when it is time to die (I’m not so sure about that). He often blames the medical profession for keeping people alive when they should be ceasing treatment (again they are his ideas, not necessarily mine). He does report that on a patient’s chart who had died, the medical officer wrote “failure to thrive”!  As if death was the patient’s failure to keep living.

The Persian Poet Rumi puts it this way:

I didn’t come here of my own accord,
And I can’t leave that way either
Whoever brought me here will have to come
And take me home.

To end where I began:

Death isn’t a punishment, any more than dying is a punishment for being born. ~Stephen Jenkinson

If as you were born you were told that one day you would die, would you still choose to be born?  I think the most powerful words in the Funeral service we use come from the 19th-century poet and social critic Matthew Arnold, who wrote:

In the midst of life we are surprised by death. Yet we are grateful for the life we have. For it is no small thing to have enjoyed the sun, to have lived light in the spring, to have loved, to have thought, to have done.

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