It was a pleasure to return yesterday to the small country town of Cheviot in the Hurunui district, just under two hours north of Christchurch. I spent six years as pastor here and in the other small communities of the region and it was good to be back.
The region is beautiful, north of Christchurch city the plains becoming rolling hills, and the northernmost boundary of my home diocese, the river Conway just north of Cheviot where the steep hills of the Hundalee range begin south of the coastal town of Kaikoura.
As I drove into the town my mind flashed back ten years to my arrival as resident priest. Four days later I had copped my first speeding ticket on the outskirts of the town.
The officer didn’t understand my logic; if there were paddocks of sheep on the left and the right of where I was driving then surely it was reasonable to assume that the speed limit was more than 50km per hour?
His reply argument was that there were clear signs, and I (especially as the new priest) should make a point of reading and heeding them.
In the moment when I heard the siren behind me I wanted to escape the law, happy to forget these laws of the road were for my good and the good of others, and it was in my interests (and the interest of the safety of others) to notice and to obey the signs.
In a different way we reflected on this yesterday considering what is for our good; we need to make a practice of savouring gratitude.
Today in the gospel we are reminded of the importance of good law, and how to read the sign of the law accurately, especially law that is tried and tested and lived from the time of Moses.
The reason for my Cheviot visit was a funeral.
Clare had lived in Cheviot since moving from Kaikoura 65 years ago. For all of that time she had been the organist in the Catholic church and for the past 20 years many Sundays was organist in the Anglican and Presbyterian churches as well. She was also a part of almost every community group in the small town, and today for her funeral there were more people standing outside the church than able to fit inside.
And these people themselves were a great sign for me today. They were gathered full of love and respect for Clare and for her family, and whether consciously or not they were in some way accepting that death is a part of life. No one present was denying the reality of death.
Even the cars overflowing the carpark and lining 100 metres both sides of Ward Road were a sign, a sign that pointed to the crowd at the funeral liturgy which pointed towards heaven.
The priest clarified this sign powerfully in his brief and beautifully focussed reflection: a funeral gathering he said is often about looking back at the sign that was the life of the one who has died. But (he added and stressed) a Christian funeral is also about looking forward.
John then quoted CS Lewis who wrote: “All their life in this world and all their adventures had only been the cover and the title page; now, at last, they are beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
An Invitation for today:
- Decide now to be hyper-sensitive to signs of divine presence in your life today. Notice the difference that this awareness makes to your experience of the people and events of your day.
- I am very grateful to those who are showing their support for Food For Faith with financial contributions. Every day I am praying for you and for your intentions. If you would like to contribute follow this link: SUPPORTING FFF.