July Letter to the Parish from Rev Sue

Uppermost in all our minds at the moment is Deborah’s funeral which took place on June 27th. I could think of nothing more appropriate to write this month than to offer you the sermon I preached the Sunday after she died. May she rest in peace.

Sermon for May 29th. The gospel reading was from Revelation chapter 22

I am usually a bit suspicious when people say “it’s what she would have wanted” after someone has died, but in the case of Deborah, she has left some clear indications of how she would like us to behave. She wanted us to focus on the positive. Inevitably we have of course been very sad this week, but today I would like to concentrate on our gratitude.

Tributes have, of course, been pouring in. The words courage, creativity and inspirational come up again and again. She was known and loved in the school, in the community and in the church. For the last three years she was unswerving in her determination to make every minute count, and to serve God for as long as strength allowed. As individuals we have our more private memories, too, of her kindness and pastoral sensitivity, especially with those who were also seriously ill. So let us for a moment give thanks to God in our hearts for all that she meant to us.

We have a choice. We can either remember only the sadness of Deborah’s death, the loss and the cutting short of a gifted ministry. Or we can also be grateful for her life, for all that she brought to us at St Margaret’s, for all that she taught us and gave us. The happy memories by far outweigh the sad ones.

Imagine being outside a huge and magnificent building. You can explore the little bit that you can see, but you never get to see the furthest rooms, and the roof is so high that you cannot see

Every Sunday since Easter we have been hearing readings from the book of Revelation. One day, when we see as God sees, it will all make sense. Now we can only grasp aspects of the truth through metaphors. Imagine trying to describe an elephant in words to someone who had never seen one, and then asking them to draw a picture. A third person probably wouldn’t recognise it at all! When the Bible describes eternity, we are getting impressions but never the whole picture. That is for another life.

One thing John, the writer of the book of Revelation, tells us, is that there will be no more tears. “Look! God has come to dwell with humans! He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning or weeping or pain anymore, since the first things have passed away.” The image here, is not so much of going to heaven, but of God coming to us. There will be a new earth, we will recognise in it the world we love, that was created by God who pronounced it good. But it will be totally transformed, beyond our imagining into a “world full of beauty, power, delight tenderness and glory”. All that is wrong with the world, all that we rage against and complain about will be gone. We will no longer cry to God of the unfairness of taking Deborah from us when she has so much still to give. She will be there with us, all made anew and perfect, and the suffering will be part of the old creation, this present life, which will fade into insignificance.

The second image is the water of life. It is a hard thing to be thirsty, and we cannot live very long without water. I spent the summer of 1976 in the community of Lee Abbey in Devon. The sunshine day after day was lovely, but as the summer went on, with 45 days without rain the grass turned brown and the cattle had to be fed. Fires broke out in the forest. Vigilance was essential and community members had to go out at night to beat them out. When at last it rained, we danced in it in the courtyard. We realised how much we needed water. In the new earth the river will never run dry. A mild thirst can be quite pleasant, and to drink after a long walk on a hot day is bliss. And that becomes a metaphor for the soul’s desire for God. As Psalm 63 puts it “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” and in today’s reading “Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift”. Finally, those longings we have felt will be satisfied. Anyone who desires God will find him, and the separation we feel will be no longer there. God will dwell with us.

Lastly, Jesus is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Jesus, who comes to us in our prayers, in our worship, in the breaking of bread and at the time of our own death was there at the beginning when the world was created and will be there at the end of time. In the words of the hymn all that we know of him now is “a foretaste of glory divine”. Jesus says “Lo, I come quickly” and we reply “Come, Lord, come”.

Rev Sue

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