Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Lost for Words

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity
27 September 2020
10.30 Morning Service

Revd Nicholas Mercer

During my summer leave, I took the opportunity to scatter my Father’s ashes

Although not strictly permitted by the Church, as his sole executor, as well as his elder son, it was incumbent upon me to comply with his wishes

In the busyness of life, these important tasks need time to be done respectfully

The ashes had been with the undertaker for over a year waiting for an opportune moment

So the holiday was chosen, with all the children present

The place he chose was called Jordan’s Craggs’, high above Wath near Patley Bridge

To be honest I never found my Father easy during his life and his dying wish was no exception

The designated place was not easy to find

However, we found our way to Wath and then, with a map in hand, climbed towards the moor top

After taking directions from a nearby farm, we stopped by a shooting hut and made the rest of the way on foot

Jordan’s Crags were next to some grouse butts – in which my Father may have shot

We found a suitable rocky promontory and I then led a short service before the ashes were scattered

As I poured them from the urn they swirled in the wind and created a small cloud which blew away

The remainder made a heap in the heather – and that was that

As so often with these moments, when earth and heaven meet, it was so hard to find the right words

However, my son Fabian read from the Book of Job (Job 19: 23-27)

Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!

 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!

 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:

 I love this reading, not least because it contains the wonderful phrase “I know that my Redeemer lives”

Words which are immortalised in Handel’s Messiah and speaks so clearly of our Lord and his Resurrection

Even though the words were written six hundred years before the birth of Christ

The reason I have focused on this phrase this morning is because of our two readings which are not easy in our modern times 

First we heard the story of Elijah bringing a young boy back to life

As the Bible records, he cried to the Lord and “The boy’s life returned to him, and he lived” 

Then the story from Luke’s Gospel where we hear, similarly, how Our Lord brought a young man back to life

After Jesus touched the bier, “The dead man sat up and began to speak”

Imagine witnessing either of these events?

What would you say – how would you explain it?

You would be lost for words and most certainly lost for an explanation

No wonder “fear seized all of them”

By way of a partial explanation, I once heard a lecture by the Anglican theologian Paula Gooder on the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

She made the interesting distinction between the revivification of Lazarus compared with the Resurrection of Jesus

This was the first time I had heard this differentiation and, although it may sound like splitting hairs, there is an important distinction

Revivification is the continuing of life in our earthly body here on earth

Resurrection on the other hand means that we are raised in a new kind of body in heaven

St Paul tackles this subject in his first letter to the Corinthians (15)

He makes it clear that “all flesh is not the same flesh”

As he puts it, “there are celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial”

The young men in our readings this morning are revivified in their “bodies terrestrial”

On the other hand, our Lord is raised in his “body celestial”.

As St Paul says, a body “Sown in weakness, raised in power; sown mortal, raised immortal”

This may seem a subtle and, no doubt, perplexing distinction

I share your puzzlement

But this is something that we have to wrestle with as Christians, and is so very difficult

What do we say when we meet at the grave…when we encounter the miraculous?

A few years ago a very dear friend of our was killed in London

He was no more than an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time

But a few weeks later, I bumped into his Mother-in-law after the 8am service

We met on the pavement before she crossed the road to her house

She asked me, like so many others who are bereaved, why God had allowed this to happen?

Of course, I had no answer

I simply said to her “I know that my Redeemer lives – and I cling onto that“

So, on those occasions where earth meets heaven

When we are lost for words 

When meaning has potentially lost all meaning

In the vast chasm of the grave

The words of Job seem so appropriate today as they did all those years ago

Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!

 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!

 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:

 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: