Welcome + Worship + Witness

The Rector: Sermon for the funeral of Bernard Windle – Feast of the Epiphany

Today we meet, in difficult circumstances, to remember our brother in Christ Bernard [Windle]

I started writing this sermon when we had just been moved into Tier 3 restrictions

Within a week, we have moved to another lock down, limited, even more, in time and place

We are, mercifully, however able to meet at the graveside, to say our farewells to Bernard and commit him to God’s loving care

Although we would, naturally, have liked more family and friends to have shared this moment

I am constantly reminded of the death and burial of our Lord

Where only a handful of his family and friends were able to attend

It was too dangerous to do otherwise – just like our own times

Nevertheless, Christ’s death and Resurrection is the most significant event in history and forms the bedrock of our faith two thousand years late

Undiminished and undimmed by the passage of time or the unfolding of history

And it is the word “undimmed” that seems most appropriate for this funeral service

I have not been at Bolton Priory for very long and have only known Bernard and Christine for a very short space of time

In this time however, not only have Bernard and Christine been loyal and committed worshippers at the Priory

But Bernard was also one of my servers

He would regularly be at my side at the celebration of the Eucharist together at our Festal Eucharist on a Sunday

And what a joy it was

Whenever we were together in Church we enjoyed sharing the Great Messianic feast

We often consumed the remaining elements together after distribution

And his love for the Eucharist shone through

In our Eucharist, we had a foretaste of God’s heavenly banquet

And Bernard joins that feast today in God’s heavenly Kingdom where he will rejoice once again

Bernard’s joy shone through like a star in a dark night

In the radiance of his light, it is quite remarkable therefore that Bernard died on the 21st December

A day when the great convergence took place between Jupiter and Saturn

This was the closest convergence since 1623 and only the eighth time in the first three millennium that these two planets had converged

This convergence, of course, reminded us of the star above Jesus’ crib which led the wise men to his cradle

Is this the light we have just seen?

Is this the light that that the wise men saw in the sky as they journeyed to see the Christ child?

Of course, we don’t know for certain

But the day of Bernard’s death marks the next stage of Bernard’s heavenly journey

And the emergence of the star reminds that he too is now journeying to see the Christ child face to face

Perhaps also guided by the same star?

It is therefore an extraordinary coincidence, and so appropriate, that we meet today to say our farewells to Bernard on the Feast of the Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany is the day when we remember the Wise Men who journeyed to see the Christ child

Bernard rather reminded me of a Wise Man himself

Even in the short time I was at the Priory, I benefitted from his wise counsel before he stepped down last year

In the midst of getting to know Bernard, he also revealed to me that he was a correspondent of Jurgen Moltmann

The German Reformed theologian who was Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen

Moltmann is not for the fainthearted

But has made a towering contribution to theology in the latter half of the twentieth century

He made the Gospel available for both Jew and Gentile alike

Just like the Magi two thousand years ago

Reminding us that the Christ Child is for all mankind

So today we say goodbye to Bernard

Husband of Christine

Father of Kathryn, Louise and Sally

We say good bye to a Wise Man who journeyed after Christ all his life and bore faithful witness

And who now continues that journey today

Guided by a star to partake, once again, in God’s heavenly banquet