Place for all – a funeral sermon

“Lord, when the shadows lengthen and night has come, I know that you will strengthen my steps toward home, then nothing can impede me, O blessed Friend! So, take my hand and lead me unto the end.” (1)

I wonder if in her last days in the hospital, May if she weren’t singing the words she certainly meant them when she declared a few times to those attending to her, “I’m soon going home.”

In saying this, did she mean her home in Osgoode — the homestead and first family home? Or in Bel Air Heights on Cannon Drive, where she and her family lived for 52 years? Or, was a more nuanced meaning of ‘home’ coming to mind? For example, when home wasn’t so much a specific place, as it was being with family in any place — such as the campground at Silver Lake, which I hear you frequented quite often and created so many cherished memories together.

“I’m soon going home.” Or, as I suspect, didn’t she already know that she soon was going home to be with all her loved ones gone before her — in her heavenly home?

A prayer on her lips and a well-known hymn’s words: So, take my hand and lead me, Lord, strengthen me in my steps toward home.

Indeed, home life was so important to May. You have told me, dear family, how your home — however imagined — was always a place of welcome to all your friends. It was a place of unconditional acceptance of each of you and your friends. Your home became a destination place for the community. A basement brimming with energy and sounding of laughter was a common occurrence. A tone of inclusiveness and openness surrounded home life.

Today as we gather to celebrate May’s life, we can affirm that God’s house is now home for May (John 14:1-3). This is a dwelling place which has a room for her, and all her loved ones in the heavenly host. 

May feels at home, I am sure, because her homes on earth seemed very much like what Jesus described in the kingdom of God: A place of inclusion, where all feel welcome. Food for everyone! An acre of vegetables that had to be tended, comes to mind, as you shared precious memories of treasured places like the large garden in the back yard.

In the Gospel reading, when Jesus says: In my Father’s house there are many rooms, read “a room for you” as “a place for you.” It goes beyond a mere belonging. It means “you can be yourself fully, here”. It means “you can come just as you are and be as you are.” “You can participate fully in everything this family is about.”

This participation is not isolated individualism. Because a house has shared space. A house has many rooms, yes. But a house means you are in a community of a certain kind. There are spaces in a house that must be shared — a living room, family room, dining room, kitchen, hallways, bathrooms.

Your parents were leaders in this shared space. They valued certain things in the family. They taught you what you know about being in relationship with one another: respecting the other, being responsible for your actions, being accountable to one another. Each of you had ‘room’ in this family to participate fully in your own unique way, and still be mindful of the other. 

The journey which continues today for May in her heavenly home begins on earth. However we find our way from this day onward — different for each of us — the same God who walked with May on earth walks with us. The God who blessed May with the joy of family relationships leads us toward bright horizons — the dawn of a new day.

Lord, take my hand and lead me upon life’s way; Direct, protect, and feed me from day to day. Without your grace and favour I go astray; So take my hand, O Saviour, and lead the way. (2)

Amen.

(1) – Julie von Hausmann, “Lord Take My Hand and Lead Me” in #767 Evangelical Lutheran Worship, Augsburg Fortress, MN, 2006

(2) – Ibid.

About raspberryman

I am a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, serving a parish in Ottawa Ontario. I am a husband, father, and admirer of the Ottawa Valley. I enjoy beaches, sunsets and waterways. I like to write, reflect theologically and meditate in the Christian tradition.
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