Cloud of Witnesses

Funeral Meditation based on Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 and Hebrews 12:1-3

What are we here for?  What is our purpose?  That is the question that the author of Ecclesiastes wrestles with and although he is filled with cynicism, he finally settles with the understanding that God has given us a job to do.  And this man writes that our purpose is to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we live.  And even more than that – that it is God’s good gift for us to eat and drink and take pleasure in all that we do.

I turn to that scripture often because it is a reminder of the blessing of life that God has given us.  It is a reminder that we are meant to find joy in this life and in the simple things that God has provided.  And after hearing her children and grandchildren, her sister and her husband talk about Colleen’s life – I think that she figured out that little secret.  She enjoyed herself and her family and her friends as long as she spent time on this earth.

As her family shared with me the many things that they will carry with them – memories of they have of Colleen – they mentioned how much she loved the things that came into her life.  She loved her family and while she did work for a while, she also loved to spend time at home as a mother and a homemaker.  Harold told me that while she didn’t know how to cook when they met, she soon learned and her family related to me the many delicious lemon meraigne, pumpkin and rhubarb pies that they enjoyed through the years. She loved music as well and took joy out of playing her organ.  And she loved to tell stories.  She and her sister Bonnie would feed off one another building tales of cowboys and Indians and about their cousin Joe – stories that grew and blossomed and were filled with joy so that the whole family would be overcome with laughter.

I think one of the most amazing things that I heard though was about who Colleen was deep inside.  She was an incredibly positive person.  She had a peace about her that allowed her to remain calm and not get angry and more than anything she strove to see the good in other people.

I shared with you today a passage from the book of Hebrews and this scripture talks about the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us.  I believe that Colleen is not only among that great cloud of witnesses today, but that through her life, she has inspired her family and her friends to be more, and to be better, than they imagined.  You see, that cloud of witnesses is like the cheerleaders or fan section at a great track meet. We each have a race to run, a path that is set before us, we too, have been given a job to do on this earth.  And Colleen, your wife, your mother and grandmother, your friend, your sister, is urging you on.  She wants you to experience the joy and the love of a life lived in God’s presence.  She wants you to reap the benefits of Christ’s love.

That doesn’t mean that the race is easy.  There are hard and difficult times in all of our lives and this day is one of those.  On this day, we celebrate Colleen’s life, but we also mourn the loss of her presence.  We mourn the things that we no longer get to share with her.  Special days will come into our midst, like yesterday – which would have been her 80th birthday, or this coming Monday – which would have been the celebration of 57 years of marriage to her husband, Harold.  And those days bring sadness and tears.

And we do mourn.

But we will be comforted.

When Christ stood among his disciples and told them that his time on earth was coming to an end, one of the first things he told them was “do not let your hearts be troubled.”  He shared with him the comfort of his presence, and then also the promise that this time on earth is not the end of our relationships together.  He told them that in his Father’s house… in our Father’s house, there is room for us all.  A place is prepared for each of us in the family of God.  And Christ will take us there himself.  Christ will show us the way.

As Colleen’s family shared with me her various loves and things she enjoyed, one of those was a deep and abiding love for John Wayne. And her daughter said that they sometimes think of her up in heaving, riding on a horse heading off into the sunset.  And that brings us joy and laughter and smiles, because it was the kind of person that Colleen was.  That joy for imagination and creativity and seeing the best in all things.  And we know that her love of God and God’s word sustained her in this life and that it has brought her to that everlasting rest, that eternal joy and peace, that is found only in God. Amen.

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