The sermon I preached at the Requiem Mass for Fr Edward Core
9th January 2010 at St Lawrence Frodingham
John 6: 35-40
When Edward asked me to preside and preach at his requiem, I had not really thought about the rich diversity of people who would be gathered to this service. Yet as I thought about this sermon over the past couple of days I realised that this congregation would gather together the rich diversity of Edward’s life and ministry – the family who loved him deeply, the friends who treasured him, colleagues and congregation who shared his ministry, those who had received his ministry and those who had just got to know Edward in the everyday of life. I also realised that, because of the way Edward related to people, there would be gathered in this church to share in the bitter sweetness of sadness and celebration, both those who hold Edward’s faith, as well as those for whom faith has not been part of their life story. But Edward had said to me “give them the Gospel” and that is what I intend to do.
We are indebted to William Mounsey for the moving tribute to Edward which he has just offered us and for capturing the essence of the friend whom we celebrate today. In his tribute, William left us with a precious thought developed from the words of TS Eliot – “Edward, you have made a new beginning”.
It is a bold claim, yet it is a deeply Christian claim which takes us right to the heart of our faith and to the heart of what Edward was all about as a priest. It takes us to the heart of why Edward was such a good and effective priest in the church of God – for he was about ‘new beginnings’ and ‘new beginnings’ are the stuff of relationships. As the numbers gathered in this church today witnessed so eloquently, Edward was good at relationships and bringing quality to relationships is a very Godly activity.
But the thing about good, healthy relationships is that they shape the future. Building and sustaining relationships asks us to reach out into the unknown and the unknowable with others to bring shape and texture into the way in which we create and craft the future. An essential feature to relationships therefore has to be faith — a belief in the other, a two-way process of engagement which lays claim to the future.
One of the things which we discover through the wisdom of the Bible is that good relationships are more concerned with what we are going to do, than with what we have done. We discover that good relationships are more concerned with who we are becoming, than with who we have been. Through Scripture we understand that good relationships celebrate our potential and cherish our love – they lay claim to the future for, each and every time we form a new relationship, or renew an existing one, it is a new beginning.
I find that we make the Christian faith very complicated by wrapping it in formulas and practice, yet in truth the Christian faith is very simple – it is about a God who wants to make and sustain relationships with us – with you and me. It is about a God who wants his relationship with us to shape the future. We heard about it in the Gospel reading from St John which Edward chose for this service, as we hear Jesus say “anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”. As a priest Edward lived this out, he was an agent of a God who will never drive us away because he believes in us and in our potential to be fully human. A God who, in the midst of all our frailty and vulnerability, has faith in us – because faith is the stuff of good relationships.
In this sense, faith really isn’t about religion – it is about being human. It is about our ability to reach outside of ourselves to discover value in other people. And when we use this ‘faithful ability’ to reach outside of the limitations of our experience and of our imagination, then we can find value in a relationship with God — the God we know in Jesus Christ. The God who, in Jesus Christ, reaches out to each of us offering new beginnings and a claim on the future, for, as we believe Edward is discovering, our relationship with God lays claim on the future and that’s what we call resurrection. To lay claim to the future, that’s Easter. Again we heard in today’s Gospel passage Jesus saying, “all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up upon the last day.”
Today we celebrate a dear friend, a faithful priest, a fellow pilgrim in life who, amidst all the complexity of life and amidst all the complexity of being human, reached out to build a relationship with God in Jesus Christ and so claimed the future.
We celebrate that future as we share in the simple things of bread and wine – a sign of the presence of God in Jesus Christ and foretaste of the banquet of heaven. The Christ who invites us into a relationship and invites us to claim our future – this is the stuff of faith, of Edward’s faith.
Amidst all the sadness which we have in losing our friend Edward, we come together with a confidence that God “will wipe away every tear from our eyes” because our friend Edward had reached out to build a relationship with God and in so doing had claimed the future – resurrection.