Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Burial of Arlene Popelka

Burial of Arlene Popelka
Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33
Psalm 23
1 John 3:1-2
John 14:1-6
Preached at St. Christopher’s by the River, Gates Mills OH, 5/28/14

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 I never had the pleasure of meeting Arlene Popelka.  But I know a couple of things about her.  Important things, in fact.  Because the hymns and readings and choice of service we’re using today were all Arlene’s decisions.  She had time to think about what it is she wanted you to hear today, as we remember her and commend her soul to God.  In fact, Arlene had 104 years to think about what these lessons and hymns might be today!  So I don’t take her choices lightly.

And what stands out to me is that she went with what was comfortable to her.  She went with what she knew.  So we read Psalm 23, in the King James Version.  And we’ve sung Amazing Grace, and Rock of Ages.  We heard the reading from Lamentations, which includes the phrase, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”  And if that hymn were in the Episcopal Hymnal, I’m sure she would have had us sing that as well!

But I think it’s telling that Arlene went with what she knew, especially in light of the Gospel reading.  In the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is preparing the disciples for his departure.  It’s a long farewell, which goes on for several chapters.  And you could say, the main reassurance Jesus is giving to his disciples is this:

They do not need to be afraid, because they will be going with what they know.  They will be going with the one they know.  Jesus tells them not to be afraid, because they know the way.

Thomas steps in and says, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  And Jesus responds, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  So you see?  They actually do know the way.  They know the way because they know Jesus.  And not only that, Jesus says, since they know him, that means they know the Father also.

Stick with what you know.  That is what Jesus is telling them.  This is his farewell address to them.  Jesus will soon be leaving them.  And he knows that they will grieve.  They will worry about what will happen next.  They won’t know what the future holds.  This is why Jesus is telling them all this is advance, so they will remember it when he is gone . . . stick with what is familiar:  Jesus.  They will be okay, because the words of Jesus will be familiar to them, this blessing that they will not be afraid.

Which brings us back to Arlene.  I’m not suggesting that she was sending us some coded message in choosing the readings and hymns today.  But it says something that she went with what was familiar.  And in doing so, she reminds us of the words of Jesus in today’s gospel:
Stick with what you know.  Because the one you know not only knows the way but is the way.  And the truth.  And the life.

And that is why this morning, you are welcome to this altar to share in the sacrament and relish in what is familiar: the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, poured out for all people, young and old, to strengthen us in the journey, to remind us of the feast to come, where with Arlene and all the saints who have entered into joy, we will at last know the Way, face to face, forevermore, and as familiar as we could ever hope or imagine.

Amen.