Easter 5 ~ The Gift of Advanced Care and Funeral Planning

May 14 2017
Acts 7:55-60 ~ 1 Peter 2:2-10 ~ John 14:1-14

For those keeping track, this is the fifth time we have heard at least the first part of this Gospel in the past few days. It is a favourite passage at funerals because it is comforting to know that we don’t have to be afraid of death – not for ourselves or for our loved ones – for we go safely home to God when we die.  And there is room in God for all of us.

Now, sometimes folks can get caught up in the middle a part of this passage – ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No on comes to the Father except through me’ – and try to use it as an exclusive claim on God. But throughout the gospels, the God who comes to us in Jesus is pretty clear, both in word and deed, that what God wants from us is a relationship of love. Love of God and love of neighbour, recognizing everyone is our neighbour.

That is the way of Jesus: an unconditional concern for the wellbeing of each other and all creation.   As followers of Jesus, that is the way we are called to live.  That is the way of truth and life. It’s not an easy road.  As Stephen found out, people are not always keen on hearing about the way of truth and life.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

This loved, comforting and sometimes contentious passage, is spoken by Jesus to his disciples on the night before his death.  He is trying to prepare them for his death and life without him.   His message is simple enough: there is no need to be afraid of death.  And to help us with that fear, he’s going ahead to light the way.  Not only does Jesus show us how to live, he also shows us how to die.

I’m not talking about the crucifixion right now but the preparation, the advanced care planning he put into place to help his loved ones cope.

When I sent Nancy, our admin assistant, the Go Wish Game and guides to funeral preparation, she relocated it to the back of the bulletin and hoped that was okay.  “So they can cut if off and keep it”, says I.   “There is that”, she said, “but I was thinking this may not be the first thing folks want to see when they open the bulletin on Mother’s Day”.

Now, to be honest I hadn’t realized it is Mother’s Day.  It’s not a big event in my family, especially once my mother died.   But I must say that having a will, giving me clear directives about end of life wishes and funeral plans was an incredible gift that both my parents gave me.

The importance of a will was realized when my brother died accidently. The importance of advanced care directives became apparent when my father was diagnosed and died ten days later.  My mother never liked making decisions, but she was very clear about her end of life and funeral wishes, each directive highlighted with an “if you don’t do what I want I’ll come back and haunt you”. When the time came, I knew I was making the decisions they would make for themselves if they could.

I know some folk don’t like to talk about death and dying but it’s the one thing I can guarantee is going to happen to all of us.  And if your family knows what you want, it can be comforting for them at a difficult time.

As a parish priest, I can’t tell you how many families go through unnecessary stress and conflict because they don’t know what their mother / father/ husband / wife/ son / daughter would have wanted. Having an end of life care and funeral plan in place is one thing that can help calm the troubled hearts of loved ones when we die.

So please, go home and read the bulletin. Make a will, think about your end of life wishes, tell someone and plan your funeral. Your priest, undertaker, lawyer and family will be so grateful.

One day we will follow Jesus through the gate of death into the dawn of new life.  He’s done his bit.  Now it’s up to us.

Pat Martin +