Note: Today I buried a fine young man full of grace and staggering potential. His father found him dead when he did not arrive for dinner on Christmas Eve. It has been a difficult week of inconsolable pain for the loss to his family but also to the human community. I share with you the homily I preached this morning. Have a purposeful new year.
©John W. Sewell
September 14, 1994 – December 24, 2015
December 31, 2016 ∞ Saint John’s Episcopal Church ∞ Memphis, Tennessee
Today we gather in this holy place to do what Christians always do when they gather:
• We come to tell the story,
• We come to quiet the fear in our hearts –
• And we come to speak to the hope that is in us.
WE COME TO TELL THE STORY
The story begins with Lane. It is the story of a son, brother, nephew, grandson and friend. Family, beloved that Lane loved with a clear and pure heart, not without a bit of cloudy haze from time to time, especially when he was in trouble usually because of a bone-headed immaturity. Then he was winsome, twinkle in the eyes, puppy dog eyes, inspiring if not at exactly forgiveness a weakening of the will bordering, at times, on indulgence, because he had no mean bones in his skeleton.
Lane loved his friends with joyful extravagance. There are friends of every sort crossing all the customary lines, constructed to keep people from reaching each other, race, class, economics, and sexual orientation. Let me modify, that he had no tolerance for bullies and was not a silent observer to such evil. He had learned early,
what I know to be true at 64, namely, that it is important to tell friends, especially the men in your life, that you love them.I ’m many of you squirmed at first or maybe always. But are you not glad this day for having those words? Remember that among yourselves. You need to hear it and you need to say it. Nothing takes its place.
Lane’s story merges with the big of story of the coming of Jesus among us, one of us, fully human that through his death and resurrection not only see authentic humanity (which is what God wants for us) but also by grace that we reach for that full, authentic humanity. But, I get ahead of myself,
I’ll come back to hope in a minute.
WE COME TO QUIET THE FEAR IN OUR HEARTS.
Our story fades into fear. There is a fear in our hearts. We are speechless with sadness, we are angry that such accidents happen. Why couldn’t Lane be more careful? His absence, his real absence is racking. We long to know if existence has meaning.We want things to mean something. Why did God do this? I don’t believe God did.
I believe that God made creation with certain degrees of freedom. In the mystical Jewish teaching, God chose to no longer be all that there is in order for creation to be genuinely free. God contracted, making room for creation. In that contraction, creation was made free.
God has made us for himself, our sacred text tells us that. Sacred texts of most of humanity tell us that.
God’s ultimate desire is for us to come to Him, how soon that happens is not of great import to God although it is of ultimate concern to us. – Reynolds Price
Of late, however, we began to see the trajectory of a good and loving man as Lane began to grow up, finding and doing a responsible job to the delight of his family and perhaps more importantly his boss.Nothing I say is a feather bed, nor an opiate of forgetfulness and there is not a quick fix.
What is happening in us regardless of how well we knew him is suffering. We know that through our bodies. All communication is through the matter of our bodies. What we know is that we hurt. Emotions too powerful to control have sprung a leak somewhere in our faces and water leaks out.
What is God’s will for us? My teacher, Rabbi Freedman put it simply, “God’s will is that we grow up!” How do we grow up? We grow up by facing challenge. Does God have to plan challenge? Of course not. The universe is rich with possibility, fruitful circumstance with perhaps infinite permutations. There is not conspiracy. Our choices are real ones. All choices are real ones, making real differences. We get no pass from mistake, accident or the choice of others. Gravity is unrelenting regardless of our virtue or how much we are loved. We quiet our fear by hope.
WE COME TO SPEAK TO THE HOPE THAT IS IN US.
We hear first from the words of the Prophet Isaiah who proclaimed, “On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make feast FOR ALL PEOPLES, a feast of rich food, well-aged wines, full of fat [that was back when fat was still good news], well-aged wines strained clear. (Lane’s career was hospitality. See with me today: I suspect he has thrown himself into working the perpetual party of God’s intention. Think of choosing the wine. If you recall Jesus produced excellent vintage himself at that wedding in Cana). The marriage feast of the Lamb in Revelation is an echo of Isaiah’s party plan.
God is throwing a party, a gathering intended for all peoples. God gives us bread to nourish our bodies and wine to make our hearts glad. It is God who throws the party. Not only is God throwing a party, He will remove the disgrace of his people. And he will shallow up death forever and wipe away the tears from all faces. This is the salvation he promises to all peoples. Salvation is a party with God as the host.
This is the mystery of faith.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.Unspoken but true is the fact that: We will die, We will rise and Christ will come again and we will be with him. Book of Common Prayer
As John wrote in his first Epistle,“We are all children of God, and yet it has not been revealed what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be in his likeness; for we shall see him as he is.” I John 3:
We shall be raised even as he was raised. We shall be in his likeness for we share a family resemblance.
John quotes in the 14th Chapter of his Gospel the words of Jesus, ” 1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4. And whither I go ye know… ” KJV
When we approach God’s house, filled with all amenities we can imagine and delights we cannot, we will see approaching, with a wide smile, Lane Carrick Jr. will welcome those he loved and loves eternally. It would be difficult to know his as he, even now, is adorned with all the qualities God had in mind when he made him. It would unless we too will be in the same fullness of being.
Today we lay Lane’s bodily remains to rest in the Saint John’s Cemetery. The word cemetery is a Christian term. In the ancient world the term for a burial place was necropolis or city of the dead. The Christian hope of the resurrection produced a new term, cemetery, from the Greek word for sleep. Believers sleep in Christ for they are not dead forever, but sleep awaiting his call at the last day.
We part from Lane this day but as we travel to the same destination in due season we shall be reunited in that place where there is there is no sorrow nor sighs but life and that life everlasting.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.