Sermon for Easter 4

12th May at St Magnus’ Lerwick

I might say that over the past weeks my life has been dominated by death.

There have been the usual funerals where sometimes the topic is raised, though strangely when I think on it, sometimes not. I wonder why this might be the case?

Much more significantly are the conversations with people, and there have been many recently, who are facing death either for themselves or their loved ones.

There are also the conversations about whether or not to attempt CPR should the need arise.

This week there was also a man who was living in extreme pain who wanted to go back to the lawyers and ask again about when the time comes could someone assist his death be freed from prosecution.

These are all huge questions affecting each of us and each of our loved ones.

Possibly on a lighter note someone even asked me this week the question if we are in heaven forever after we die, how is it possible to be large enough to accommodate all the need? Does heaven keep getting extended?

A few weeks ago I was wondering what Lazarus might have said when he was brought back from death, and today we hear about Tabitha who was ill and died. She was a good lady by all accounts and obviously loved and admired. Peter prays and then says “Tabitha get up” and she does and begins to serve them again.

She had been ill and then died…. Quite a natural progression, she was loved and people would have grieved. So what do you think may have been the effects on her and her loved ones by being brought back to life?

As I sometimes say at funerals some of the oldest words recorded from the Christian pen are words to the Thessalonian church “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so through Jesus God will bring with him those who have died… we will be with the Lord forever… therefore encourage one another”

It would appear the question of death has travelled with us perhaps not surprising, but equally important is to realise that ideas of heaven (and indeed hell) have not been constant, and have it would appear changed down the years.

You certainly don’t have to be religious to use the language of heaven, Heaven is variously depicted in art of all forms down the years.

It is such a familiar term yet it is worth realising it may mean different things to different people.

Paula Gooder has written an excellent book on this topic, it is readily and easily readable.

For many of us today, Death , dying and heaven are part of the same conversation yet it may not always have been so even within the life of the Christian Church. Thoughts and feelings have evolved and probably continue to do so.

It is probably important to realise that as the collect for today speaks, the resurrection and the life is more often speaking about this world and are life today than it is about some other world.

The resurrection life of Jesus was that which literally fed the early believers. It was his continued presence that made them who they were then.

This week Jean Vanier died. He was the founder of the L’Arche communities. His death has touched many people, it is of course sad.

I had the huge pleasure of meeting him a number of years ago. He was a speaker at a conference I was attending. I have since that conference said that that was like being alongside a living saint… a truly remarkable Christian.

I want to encourage us to talk about our death, and to speak about our dying. Let’s accept differences here too.

On a perhaps practical and personal point do make sure loved ones know what you feel about CPR too.

There is no age limit about such discussions, children and old people alike can grow by sharing the discussion.

Jean Vaniers final words to those at his bedside were inspiring and I want to end with them now, giving thanks for his remarkable life and witness.

“I am deeply peaceful and trustful. I’m not sure what the future will be but God is good and whatever happens it will be the best. I am happy and give thanks for everything. My deepest love to each one of you” (Jean Vaniers final word)




Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever