Funeral of Colin Banks
Wednesday 20th March, 2002
When Caroline told me that Colin had expressed the wish that I should conduct his funeral service today, I was both delighted and apprehensive.
Delighted because of the privilege of taking a part in the burial rite of a truly estimable man; apprehensive because in the instructions Colin had left he had added the words: "I would call myself an atheist, but an Anglican atheist"
Now thereís a challenge for any preacher! It was immediately apparent that at least one of those two words, atheist or Anglican must be understood in some rather unusual sense, and my mind went immediately to the quotation from that invaluable theological work called Through the Looking Glass and What Alice found there. And there, indeed, was the clue in Chapter six.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean Ė neither more nor less".
Now in both cases, one suspects, the trouble lies in the word "Glory". Many of those who describe themselves as atheists are in reality fighting shy of the whole notion of glory because it makes them feel distinctly uncomfortable.
Yet if, as St Irenśus said "The glory of God is the living man and the end of man is the vision of God" then, at least so far as we mortals are concerned, the two concepts of glory and the reality of God must be inextricably linked with each other. Hence someone who has have mixed feelings about glory will have serious doubts about God. So let us investigate what the glory of God really means when it applies to the living man.
Well, one thing glory doesnít mean is something we earn by being good or gifted or famous. It means, on the contrary, the way in which a living man reflects the glory of God. Just as a looking-glass doesnít become sunlight by virtue of reflecting the sun, however dazzlingly, so the living man becomes glorious not because his mind is brilliant or his personality radiant, but by virtue of his reflecting that light which comes from, and returns to, God alone.
That glory is most evident in the whole death-and-resurrection business which was consummated in Jesus Christ on the first Easter Day. From the human standpoint itís hard to think of anything which reflects at once less credit yet more glory than dying and being raised to life. No wonder people fight shy of it!
It is sometimes said that the fundamental thing is how we think about God. By God himself, it is not! How God thinks about us is not only more important, but infinitely more important. Indeed, how we think of him is of no importance except in so far as it is related to how he thinks about us. It is written that we shall "stand before him". The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that any of us who really chooses will actually survive the examination, will find approval, will please God and become partakers of his eternal glory.
The weight of glory is an immensely poignant phrase. Seen from the earthly viewpoint that weight appears a serious embarrassment. Looked at from eternity, a little thought will tell us that itís all we ever really wanted Ė and besides, itís all God ever wanted to bestow upon human beings when he first created us in his own image.
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