Shoes, slippers, high heels, flip flops, wellies – you walk differently depending upon what shoes are on your feet. And just imagine trying to walk in swimming flippers. A very distinctive walk would ensue. Tomorrow’s readings teach us about how our faith in God affects the way we live. Not necessarily how you physically walk but if you think of your life and the way you live as a walk…. your walk through life….. then I think you will get my point. Just as what shoes you wear affect the way you walk, what you believe affects the way you live.
This week has been overshadowed by funerals – each very different and each, I hope, illustrating a different aspect of that question about walking the walk of faith.
Whilst on the way to Crem for Tuesday’s funeral I got a phone call from a school friend telling me that her mother, aged 89, had died last week and that her funeral would be in a couple of weeks time. It will be taken by a funeral celebrant who was visiting my friend that night to talk about the service. I had a fleeting thought that she might ask me to take the service, but I wasn’t surprised at her choice of celebrant and doubted that she would want a religious service. I assured my friend that the meeting would be fine and made a few suggestions of the sorts of things she would be asked.
My friend had helped me many years ago when we were both young mums. She diagnosed my low mood as the ‘baby blues’ and the need for a doctor who did diagnose depression and anxiety. She was a great friend and neighbour when I was in need. We pick up our friendship very easily even when we don’t see each other for ages. She would help anyone if she could. She is not a Christian even though some would say she behaves in a Christian way. You could say she walks the walk, but as I often say when talking to families about a baptism for a baby, just being a good helpful person doesn’t make you a Christian. I know many good, helpful, loving people are Muslim or Hindu, or atheist. You can’t simply label a person who is kind and does good a Christian, although having said that if someone does profess to be a Christian then you should see evidence of kindness, helping others and love in action etc.
Back to Tuesday’s funeral. It was of a lady well known in the village who was an integral part of the community for many years. She was in the WI, a bell ringer, MU, amateur dramatics, managed a football team, on church council and in the choir, made wedding cakes and dresses, organised and attended dances and bingo running the village hall and generally supporting her family and friends. Family and friends filled the church. She lived out her Christian faith in service to others. She walked the walk (I didn’t know her as she had been in a home with dementia for the last 18 years, so have no idea if she spoke about her faith when well). I felt confident that I could use the alternative commendation for a church member:
N has fallen asleep in the peace of Christ.
We entrust him/her, with faith and hope in everlasting life,
To the love and mercy of our Father
And surround him/her with our love and prayer.
In baptism he/she was made by adoption a child of God
At the Eucharist he/she was sustained and fed.
God now welcomes him/her to his table in heaven
To share in eternal life with all the saints. Amen
Then on Wednesday afternoon it was the funeral of a colleague and friend, the Prebendary Reverend Mark Salmon. Mark was the vicar in the parish where I held my first incumbent status position. I was half time Resident Minister with responsibility for the daughter church and half the parish and half time mental health chaplain at a psychiatric hospital. Mark was an excellent and supportive colleague who helped me enormously. He was a great vicar, working tirelessly for the local community and church and would often appear at diocesan events with his camera around his neck.
He had died after a short illness at a relatively young age. Sadly he didn’t quite make it for his eldest daughter’s wedding on the Saturday before the funeral. The funeral was family only and there was a gathering in the evening in church for anyone else to pop in and pay their respects, and see the family. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go and neither will I be able to attend the memorial service in September. I paid my respects by wearing flip flops on Wednesday and making my daily drawing a pair (fortunately the word from my Sketch a Day app was protect – they protect your feet). I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Mark talked the talk AND walked the walk.
Should a Christian walk the walk? Yes – nobody would doubt that.
Should a Christian talk the talk? Some might say no and indeed our churches are full of people who are unable to talk about their faith. I think though that the fault lies not in their lack of faith, but in a lack of teaching and a culture of faith being seen as private. It is deeply personal (or should be) but not private. Our faith affects our behaviour. And our behaviour affects other people. If we believe in Jesus Christ then we need to be able to tell other people why we have the hope of eternal life.
1 Peter 3:15 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;
I was reminded of a book I started to read that goes through the various themes that run throughout the bible. An easy to read explanation. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the bible better.
The chapter I was reminded of, by the Reader preaching on Sunday, was the Kingdom storyline. The authors’ introduction uses the illustration of the queen and prime minister.
If the queen were to visit – bunting, street parties, curtsey’s and all manner of specialness. But we all know that she is just a figure-head and that the real power lies with the Prime Minister and his government.
Is Jesus just a figurehead or is he your prime minister and government? Many people like to have Jesus as their King but keep themselves as their own prime minister and government, deciding what they want to do not really considering What Would Jesus Do? Or if not consciously doing what they want, many people simply conform to the wider society around them.
That attitude can be summed up in the song often used at funerals: I did it my way. When I conduct a funeral I always say that eternal life starts this side of the grave. Eternal life is being made new through belief in Jesus and living as a sons and daughters of God. And as such we share in his desire to change the world around us in a positive way. I end my funeral talk by saying: Living by believing in Jesus gives a quality of life that knows the peace of God; a life that trusts in God as our father; and a life that has a deep inner joy and peace even when life is painful. And it goes on after death, in heaven, until we experience the resurrection and that time to come, where God will live with us on the new earth and will wipe away our tears.
Many people want to believe in life after death – eternal life. The Christian belief is of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and that same new life for ourselves. Yesterday’s Sketch a Day word was Peacock. I love peacock colours and will often wear blues, greens and turquoise. I didn’t have an enormous amount of time to do it, so I was pleased with my rushed effort, following a YouTube tutorial.
Christians adopted the symbol of the peacock to represent immortality. This came from an ancient legend that the flesh of the peacock did not decay. It is also associated with the resurrection of Christ because it sheds it old feathers every year and grows, newer, brighter ones each year. If the peacock is portrayed drinking from a vase it symbolizes a christian drinking the waters of eternal life. In addition the ” multitude of eyes” upon its stunningly beautiful fan tail, suggested the all seeing eye of God. Visit http://www.jesuswalk.com/christian-symbols/peacock.htm for ancient pictures of the peacock used as a Christian symbol.