B….. R…. would be so happy you are here this afternoon. She loved this church, loved people gathering here for the Eucharist: especially at Easter when the place gets nearly full. She would be ecstatic today. In fact, I can safely say that she is!
This church, any church, is a place set aside for touching those moments of hunger and hope, birth and marriage, transition and termination. Over the centuries we’ve gathered in places like this to remember, with mysterious, solemn and dedicated observances for all the events of life and death, with both duty and delight; to share the songs and the stories of “where we come from and where we’re going, and why all the travelling.”
And I must admit that lately we don’t do it awfully well. The church still speaks s though there’s nothing else happening on a Sunday morning. And we need to learn a new vocabulary that connects eternal concerns with the language of the present day. This is not news. Religions, like other communities of compassion and commitment, go in and out of style. And we’ll learn to rise again, speak simply and clearly about the places where love, forgiveness, renewal, and actions live, with fresher stories and newer songs to enable communities to envision, dedicate themselves to new and larger life. But I can say that was what B… found here, at Holy Trinity Church, Whitfield.
It was about 4 years ago when I drove up here from Wangaratta and met her for the first time. She welcomed me out front, showed me where the needed things were, and left me to get ready for the service as she went to kneel in prayer, and I learned something about her then that I will never forget.
It’s not generally known, but sometimes you can almost smell prayer. I remember a small chapel in Rome, one Pentecost morning in Melbourne, an afternoon in Davis, California, after a choir festival, and preparing for the Mass at almost 11:00 on that first morning in Whitfield with B..…
I don’t know what B…. had been like or what she had gone through in her times as a girl, a young lady, married woman, mother, neighbour, teacher, elder; but she knew what it was to take part in the Eucharist.
So today we’re celebrating Holy Communion, the Eucharist, a Mass of Thanksgiving for her life and her journey. And in this we take part in the actions of Jesus when he let his life go as a way to live out love. It is not a moment unique to Him: we all have times when we decide to walk on in charity when we know there’s hateful trouble up ahead: when bones might be broken, blood spilled. But sometimes loving life calls for costly sacrifice that can be deadly serious, calls for serious symbolic action, and B…. knew that.
Jesus did four things: he took bread, blessed it, broke it, shared it; asking his friends, up to and including us, to share in this food and count themselves members of this outpouring, ongoing body of love, in participating in this very simple action of give and take and give. As St Augustine said some 1600 years ago: “Behold what you are. Become what you receive.”
And B…. did that. She took up her life, with whatever joy and delight, toil and trouble she was dealing with; Sunday by Sunday, month by month, year by year, and she let it to be blessed, allowed it to be opened to love’s breath, let it be broken open to see how faithful prayerful action might be given over, shared with family, friend, the community, the stranger. She beheld who she was, and she became what she received. And that’s why we gather today to celebrate.
Because she has gone on. And in what we call death she now knows larger life, with horizons that pass our understanding. But we are here, and we can rejoice that she now sees what we can only taste.
In the name of Christ. Amen