St Stephen’s Lewisham

23rd January 2009

Homily at the Funeral of Muriel Adella Palmer

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself… So… we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

These words were written by St Paul to the Christians at Corinth, some time after the passage which you have just heard: Corinth like many another sea-port, was a city given over to every kind of human depravity and vice. Yet, amongst its citizens, many came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their saviour as a result of Paul’s preaching the Gospel.

One often hears people today, even some Christians, say that they’re ‘not interested’ in what’s going to happen to them when they die.

There’s one simple question we should ask anyone who says ‘I’m not interested in life after death’. It’s this: Exactly whose life are you so unconcerned about? Are those who say this seriously claiming that they will stand beside the deathbed of someone they love and say, "Well, my dear, I don’t know what is going to happen to you and frankly I’m not interested"? We’d feel nothing but contempt for anyone who claims to be uninterested in the immediate welfare of somebody else who lies dying in their presence.

This Funeral Service, and the Burial which follows it, helps to remind us that Christians must always take an intense interest in the welfare of those who have died, as well as those who are still living, knowing that, in the words of the first Reading: There is a time to be born and a time to die… a time to keep silence and a time to speak. We have a duty to be interested both in holding up to God in prayer the eternal future of Muriel Adele – as well as owing such a duty to ourselves. And we have a duty to speak to the world about our belief in the Resurrection of the Body and the Life Everlasting as this service does.

For in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ lies our only hope of reconciliation with God, and hence our hope of salvation and resurrection. As a Christian writer once said ‘One can hardly think too little of one's self. One can hardly think too much of one's soul.

Our bodies are the ‘frail earthen vessels’ which carry our souls during our earthly life. As vessels, they are no less important than jars filled with golden coins. During our earthly life they are necessary for safeguarding what they contain. But the moment will come for each one of us, as it has come for Muriel Adella, for that vessel to be broken and its contents returned to God from Whom it came.

‘Then He Who raised Jesus from the dead will, as St Paul says ‘change the lowly body of those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been baptized into his death, into the likeness of His glorious body. Paul’s message, both to us and to Muriel Adella is quite clear: ‘Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ’ he tells us.

At every moment of our earthly life God sets before us two Ways: a Way of Life, and a Way of Death. God has spoken to us through His Living Word, Jesus Christ our Saviour; and His Word to us (echoed by St Paul) is this: ‘Choose life that you may live!’

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