Friday 15th October 

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

I’m preaching this homily following the arresting poetry of Gerald Manley Hopkins and before the ancient poetic prayer of Psalm 23, which we sing as a hymn.  Between then the wild and breath-taking reality of a burn tumbling into Loch Lomond and the calmer waters of the Psalm.  We are between vivid Scottish reality and rich biblical metaphor, and in both the waters of life flow from their source to their destination, and to the sea.  As our life’s journey flows on from birth, through life, through turbulence and calm, inevitably to death.   

As we gather today to remember a man of great character and achievement, of great life, we can turn to Psalm 23 and later our gospel reading, from St John, as sources of deep reassurance.  Christian faith teaches that through life, and beyond death, our journey is towards an eternity with God.  To God who is source of all life, all joy and all love.  

The 23rd Psalm is one of the best loved of the ancient Hebrew Psalms because we respond to both the honesty and the hope contained within it.   

The Lord God is a shepherd who cares for each one of us.  The Lord is my shepherd, and yours, leading us beside still waters and to pasture and rest. There’s the realism that we will walk through the valley of death.  Each of us will face turbulence as well as calm, heart-ache as well as happiness, indeed everyone will face a foe.  There is this realism in John’s coat of arms which carries the words ‘Fortitude under difficulties’.  The 23rd Psalm celebrates the source of fortitude.   That throughout life the good shepherd is with each of us to protect, comfort and restore, to lead us to life of overflowing fullness. The Psalm ends, as Jesus teaches us in John’s gospel, that our eternal destiny is a dwelling place, in eternity.   

I pray that this faith and hope will be a continuing source of comfort and reassurance to us all.  We journey through earthly life, and at the end, step into another country to find that God is welcoming us home, to fullness of life, joy and love.  

I’ll close with ancient words from one of our earliest saints, St Ignatius of Antioch, reflecting on the energy within us, propelling us towards God: 

‘A stream flows 

Whispering inside me; 

Deep within me it says 

Come to the Father.’1