9th April 1997
Funeral of Mary Ferguson
When St Paul tried to explain the good News of the Resurrection to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers of Athens he didn't succeed any too well.
They understood him to be talking about two new gods: one called Jesus and another called Anastasis or Resurrection.
Now from their point of view there was nothing objectionable in being a "setter forth of new and strange gods". Their whole policy was based on the belief that you just couldn't have enough gods and lords. It enabled people to exercise the widest choice in the matter and pick the one that suited them best. Athens, in fact, had become a religious supermarket. You paid your money and took your choice.
Paul's preaching cut right across this. He identified Jesus as God the Son, and said to them, in so many words "Jesus Christ is the Resurrection and the life - whoever believes in him, though he were dead, yet shall he live" - words, you may rmember which we heard at the very beginning of this service.
That was something altogether too much for the broadminded Athenians - not many of them in fact followed Paul's preaching through to its conclusion - as St Luke tells us, only "Dennis and Damaris and some others"
But the truth which we are proclaiming here today is the same as that preached by St Paul in Athens two thousand years ago.
Because Jesus dide and rose from the dead to be the Resurrecttion and the Life of those who believe in him there is a seamles living fabric between Aunt Mary as she was when still alive and a small group of her friends foregathered in Cranmer Court to anoint her with oil in preparation for death and to celebrate the Lord's Supper with her, the feast of death and resurrection, to anticipate her rising to new life in him.
There is, whether we are aware of it or not, an unbroken backing fabric between that event and the one which we are performing today when we meet together to dispose of her body aby cremation, and the Requiem which Stephen and Elaine celebrated for her earlier this morning in Stainland. In the Body of Christ, which is the Church, there is a unity which nothing, least of all death, can destroy. that is why, unlike the Athenians with their many gods and lords, we have no fear like them of death and ultimate meaninglessness.
For we preach Jesus crucified and risen: to the Greeks foolishness but to us who are in the process of being saved, the power of God and the wisdom of God.
We are not, like the Athenians, following some cleverly devised man-made; philosophy; we are accepting what God has offered to us by revelation - the Jesus is Lord both of the dead and the living, and that he is, as he claimed to be, the resurrrection, the way, the truth and the life.
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