Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Sermon at the Funeral of Margaret (Margot) Isabel Firth

16th September 2021

Today we meet together to say goodbye to Margot

Beloved wife of Malcolm/and of her children and grandchildren and so many friends and relatives

It is clear that she was much loved and cherished and will be sorely missed

And we mourn her together today whilst sharing many happy memories of her life

It is difficult for me to know where to start, particularly as I never even met Margot

However, she was a member of the congregation at Bolton Priory for many years

Before old age, and then infirmity, meant that she had to move from her home in Beamsley

It is a life, like so many others where, before the very end of our lives, we are forced to move on

And often to move away from our familiar surroundings

It may well happen to many of us here at some stage of our lives, if it has not done so already

On one level it may seem rather harsh to have to move from the comfort of our home which we have known and loved

And where we have so many happy memories

However, on another level, and looking at it dispassionately, it is all part of life’s earthly pilgrimage

As I say to those who are being baptised

We have an earthly journey and we have a spiritual journey

And our spiritual journey takes us from our baptism to God’s heavenly kingdom

Bolton Priory, where Margot worshipped for so many years, perhaps makes this makes this point more clearly than any other church I know

That is because the only part of the Church which remains is the nave

The rest was destroyed in the Reformation

But the word nave comes from the Latin word “navis” meaning a ship from where we get the word Navy as well as navigation

The point being made to the congregation is that they are all part of the ship’s company, so to speak

Travelling towards heaven

And we get a foretaste of heaven when we celebrate Holy Communion together

But whilst we travel together spiritually as members of the congregation – it does not matter where, we live physically

And I always remind members of the congregation, who are now in Nursing Homes or elsewhere

That they are just as much a member of the congregation as those still able to attend in person

Whilst our earthly home may change, we cannot leave our spiritual journey–

And the navigation, ultimately, is in the same direction

As baptised Christians we are all on this journey together –

From an earthly to a heavenly realm, until we arrive at the Kingdom of God

Celtic Christians used to take part in a pilgrimage known as “peregrination”

It was a term adopted by St Augustine of Hippo who urged Christians to adopt such a way of life on earth whilst waiting for the Kingdom of God

This type of pilgrimage was journey for the love of Christ alone – nothing else

And one was required to abandon oneself completely to God – to throw yourself on his mercy

As the spiritual writer Esther De Wall said , it was “To find the place of one’s resurrection, the resurrected self…[our] true self in Christ”

This is, in a sense, an extreme form of pilgrimage – if you like for extreme pilgrimages

But whereas it might seem extreme, it is not as extreme as you might think

I was talking to two doctors the other day about abandoning yourself to Christ

We rely so much on earthly props and cling to places of safety such as our earthly homes

But ultimately we will all find ourselves at the mercy of God

There will, in all probability, be that moment in the doctor’s surgery where he or she says

“There is nothing more I can do for you”

Science and materialism is over

And you are then at the mercy of God alone

And we will all find ourselves in the same place as the Celtic pilgrims

Wandering in an unknown region with Christ as our guide

But it is not to be feared because it is part of our journey heavenward

And so to our reading today from John’s Gospel

If we had lost sight of our journey and where it leads, Jesus completes the picture for us today

“Do not let your hearts be troubled” he says

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places

I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you are too, there you may be also”

“And do you know the way” asks Thomas

Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and life”