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At the Solemn Mass of the Resurrection for Donald Craig McCall
Advent Feria, Thursday, 17 December 2009

A Sermon Preached by the Rev’d Dr Andrew C. Blume

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Donald, and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-33
Revelation 21:2-7
John 11:21-27

On my last Sunday preaching at the Church of the Advent in Boston, the Gospel appointed for that day was from Luke. It was the story of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). In that sermon, I talked about the challenges of ministry in the city, that Lazarus will be at our gate, and how each of us—each of us who bears the responsibility of privilege—must decide what to do when we encounter our Lazarus. We know what the Rich Man in the story did. He passed Lazarus by without regard and when both died, the Rich Man discovered the awful truth about being called by God to a life of love and mercy, a life of accounting all people as lovable children of God.

After I arrived here, I learnt what the people of Saint Ignatius did ... and do. Donald McCall—as Father Stowe recounted to me recently—turned up on our doorstep about twenty five years ago as a guest of our then new Soup Kitchen. Shortly thereafter Father Stowe invited him to assist in the work of this ministry. After a little while longer, you invited him into worship. Don, drawn to this place as he was, accepted that invitation, an invitation offered from the centre to the margins, an invitation that acknowledged him as a child of God, as lovable as anyone else who might wish to make this church his or her parish home. Don found himself drawn deeper and deeper into the life of this community, deeper into the love of God, drawn, in fact, to be washed in the waters of Baptism at that very font at the Great Vigil of Easter in 1990.

Truly it was here in this place that Donald found a home, experiencing the love of God in the embrace of you, his brothers and sisters, in the chance not just to be served but to serve, in the music of our liturgy, and in the Sacrament itself. For over twenty years, rain or shine, sober or not, Don sat right behind the organ console and felt held in the arms of the God who made him, who loved him, and who knew him better than he knew himself.

As complicated as his life was, Don knew the joy of resurrection because he encountered its possibilities whenever he came here, whenever he took the Host upon his tongue, whenever he was welcomed back after a particularly rough patch. It was this cycle of falling away and being received again in the arms of God that characterised Don’s life. This community was the incarnation of those arms. This community as the Body of Christ received him and showed him that he was loved, that he was important, that he was, simply, human.

We did not step over Lazarus. We welcome the stranger, the outlier, and invite each person—wherever they are on their journey—into the risen life of the Body of Christ. We heard the call to love and welcome and honour Donald, as we work to love and welcome each soul who comes to our door. We have tried to live as we are called to live as Christians, as the very Body of Christ, a body that was broken and crucified, a body that was raised from the dead. This is one reason why the story of Dives and Lazarus is not our Gospel today. Today we hear with confidence our Lord proclaim, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” The faith of this community in Resurrection life and Don’s faith in Resurrection life met in this place in real relationship—which is itself the bedrock of faith. Resurrection has abounded here in the midst of despair and loss, in the midst of a life and death that were equally complicated, equally tragic. Resurrection life abounds in Donald’s life and death and in our relationship with him.

Today for the Epistle we read that passage from the Revelation to John in which in one moment, in one sweep of beautiful prose, we are assured of the movement from unaccountable loss to consummation in resurrection life. God, we are told, “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away ... [and] behold, I make all things new.” We are comforted to learn that all things were made new for Don every time he touched the divine in this place, whenever he found love in this place. We are comforted to know that all things are made new as Don’s flesh lives on in the bodies of those to whom he gave the gift of his own body as an organ donor. We are comforted that God has made all things new as Don’s soul now dwells with God for ever, remembered for eternity by God as his child, as flawed as he was, but one as loveable, as beautiful as any. We, too, re-member Don, for he lives on in this place in our powerful memories, his spirit of service, of faithfulness, soon to sleep a few feet from where he sat whenever he came to worship in this place.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace and rise in glory. Amen.

Andrew Charles Blume+
Advent Feria [Thomas Merton, Contemplative], 10 December 2009

 

© 2009 Andrew Charles Blume