“From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”
Later this morning we thank God for the life and ministry of Eric Grimshaw as his funeral takes place in church. So many people have good reason to bless God for the ministry of Eric and Cath, for their faithfulness to God’s call and their commitment to the Gospel of the risen Jesus.
There is something poignant about the funeral of a clergyperson. Eric in his ministry would have taken over 1500 funerals but this one will be very special to him, his own. A pro to the end, Eric organized the personnel, the Bible reading and the hymns. He knew what makes a good funeral, one that unambiguously proclaims Christ
I recall at a recent college reunion explaining to my former fellow students, all employed in the world of economics (and all no doubt, very, very worried at the moment), that on average I had taken a funeral a week for the previous 30 years. Aghast, they wondered how I could cope. You do – if you trust in God to keep his promises, if you make Christ your cornerstone.
But it does have an effect on you, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Most importantly, being regularly in the presence of those recently bereaved, you see the concerns and worries of life in their true perspective. What counts is our relationships, nothing else. When the Twin Towers fell, no one phoned their bank manager: everyone phoned their loved ones to say how much they loved them. In that perspective, what if the FTSE drops towards 5300 or our washing machine floods?
So we need to invest heavily in our relationships. They alone give a return. Remember that.
Above all, the most important relationship is our relationship with Jesus. He alone is our hope, our cornerstone. It was John Wesley who defined a Christian as someone who puts Christ at the centre of their relationships.
So we need to live each day on the basis of that truth. There is simply no alternative. Taking funerals reinforces that conviction.
And it does make you wary in making plans. How often I have heard the words “and we had hoped . .” You may be working hard for a special holiday, to complete an important project, even saving for retirement. And then . . . Full stop.
We are always in God’s hands. In the words of James “Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
In all you have a sense of the frailty of life. As shown in the ancient words of the prayer of commendation “In the midst of life we are in death; to whom can we turn for help, but to you, Lord, who are justly angered by our sins?”
We need to live our lives in the present tense, that is in the presence of Christ. So Eric has chosen his service to begin with the hymn “In Christ alone” – hence the quote at the beginning of this letter.
So we delight in the safe arrival of baby Neve Olive who made her life’s first cry in the early hours of Tuesday, weighing in at 6lbs 12ozs. Our congratulations to Jen and Ewan who are now experiencing the joys of parenthood.
I am finding that pregnancies don’t get any easier, even after 11 (#7 was twins). I’m not sure modern communications help. It was surreal driving down the M1 with Jacqui chatting away to Jen. Nothing unusual in that at all, except Jen was in labour at Bedford Hospital.
So we pray for Neve, as we pray each night for each of her seven cousins, that she may find Christ her light, her strength, her song in this uncertain world. For in Christ alone her hope is found