15 August 1923 to 14 September 2015
Ernest was a real gentleman and kindly man. He was also proud, humorous and interesting.
This homily was shared by Revd Nick Bundock at the funeral at St James.
My first memory of Ernest was as a fresh-faced team vicar in May 2005. Ernest and Stan Morris were approaching the Lychgate here at St James just as I was coming out of the vestry door and our paths crossed under the gate. Ernest winked at Stan and said, “Stan, let’s give him a couple of weeks to get settled in, and then we’ll make his life hell.” The wink to Stan said it all, he was pulling my leg and Stan enjoyed the joke too.
Ernest was a real gentleman and kindly man, he was also proud, humorous and interesting. He was deeply devoted to this parish and had a keen interest in the history of St James. At the end of a service you would often see him with a little crowd of newcomers showing them different windows and monuments. By 2005 Ernest was slowing down a little bit, but his love of the parish and the people of the parish was plain to see. Ernest invested in this place and its people and from church warden to fabric team to helping the parishes to unite in the early 80s Ernest’s legacy lives on.
When someone as vibrant and generous as Ernest passes away, our thoughts naturally turn to the eternal questions. Will we meet him again? What will it be like for him and for us after life on earth?
There is an unhelpful paucity of information about these questions in the Bible. But the two readings we’ve heard this morning get as close as we’re likely to get.
Our reading from Revelation 21, verses 1-7, gives us some important clues – there will be no more crying, no more death, no mourning, no pain. All things will be made new. This is very healing to read. Ernest’s decline and Alzheimer’s was a long painful one and we can take hope that along with a renewed body comes a renewed and revitalised mind. We can also hope that the grievous losses of Mavis and then Anne will be reversed as saints old and new are reacquainted in eternity. Quite literally, the tears wiped from our eyes as the wrongs of this beautiful but cruel world earth are finally put right once and for all.
Our reading from Revelation is comforting but it’s vague. It tells us that wrongs and evils of this life will be wiped away, but it tells us nothing about what heaven will look like, feel like, be like, and that’s where our second reading, John 14, verses 1-6, is so helpful. In this comforting passage Jesus explains to his disciples that heaven is like a huge mansion with many rooms and that each room will be carefully prepared, just for us. This means that our experiences here on earth, our loves, our preferences, our tastes, our likes and dislikes will all be represented in this great big mansion house. In other words heaven is glorified earth, not an otherworldly alien experience – it’s home, only like it was meant to be, not how it became.
Let me finish with CS Lewis. Lewis takes what little there is about heaven in the New Testament and tells a little parable. An innocent woman gave birth in a prison cell. The boy grew up in captivity with his mother, but had never seen the light of the sun, felt the wind on his back and the only living creatures he’d ever seen were the rats that ate the crumbs from his plate.
Mother and son would spend hours each day just talking. “Tell me about the outside world,” he would say and she would describe everything as best she could and scratch pictures onto the walls of the cell. One day she picked up a rock and etched a tree. “That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” said the boy. “And one day you will see the magnificence of a real living tree, but for now these lines will have to do.” But in her heart she grieved that her son could not conceive that trees in the outside world were not made from marks on a wall.
We are like the boy. For now it’s impossible to imagine the wonder of the world outside the cell. But for Ernest, for Anne, and for Mavis this is now a glorious and wonderful reality.