Category Archives: Theology

Theological musings

Talk from my dad’s funeral

A bit of a different topic for the post today, but as several people have asked here is the text of the talk I gave at my dad’s funeral last week. If you prefer, you can find the audio of the talk on the page with other audio recordings from the funeral.


Looking through some photos of my dad Charles as a child, many people have said how similar we looked. I guess we say “A chip off the old block”. In some respects this is true – we were both interested in computers and work in IT, we both love to travel. In other respects we were very different – I have never liked wine and for the past 8 years we’ve not had any car – I’m not sure those things were ever true of Charles! However in the area that was most precious to my dad – that of following and loving Jesus – he raised all of his children to follow his good example. So, I wanted to share a few words about what my dad taught me about Jesus, and in particular the hope that it gave him as he lived and as he was dying.


I remember my first experience of death. I must have been about 4 or 5 and our family had been given a friends’ pet gerbil to look after while they went on holiday. As my mother Joyce didn’t really like animals this was the first pet we had ever had in the house, and as it turns out, also the last! The first morning I went downstairs to look through the cage bars at it, but I found it on its’ back not moving. I went and asked my mum and she said it had died. I remember we made a small marker and buried it in the back garden – I don’t know what my parents said to our friends when they got home though!

I didn’t really understand death, but I started to be both fascinated and frightened by the idea. Shortly after this incident Charles had his wisdom teeth come through. I remember him lying in bed for a few days in pain and asking my mum “Is daddy dying?” and being scared and fearful of this.


A few years later when I was about 8 years old my great grandfather died. I remember beforehand having nightmares about him dying and was very scared. On several occasions I ran downstairs crying to my dad. He couldn’t explain much, and certainly couldn’t comfort me that my great-granddad would not die or that I would not die, but he read these words of Jesus to me from the gospel of John (14:1)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. … 6 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

As he read those words and prayed for me to know this comfort, I felt the peace of the Holy Spirit come on me even though I couldn’t have described it like this at the time.


For several weeks before Charles died we feared this would happen, and again, following my dads’ example I turned to the Bible for comfort, reassurance and guidance, and thinking about how Charles would understand these verses. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 15:20 … Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

In the story told by the Bible, God created humans in a world without death, without pain, without sorrow and with the presence and glory of God in every area of it. But because of our natural inclination to disobedience and sin; decay and death – both physical and spiritual – came into the world. This is the first creation, perfected by God but ruined by humans, symbolized and summarized in this passage by our forefather Adam.

But God could not bare to see his good creation continually be ruined by people and sought out people who wanted to follow Him – not those who thought they were perfect, but ordinary fallen people like you and me and Charles, through whom He could display His Glory and Grace. Throughout thousands of years through the people of Israel he showed that no-one could achieve this on their own merit but rather everyone was in need of a saviour. And throughout this time he promised that one day a new creation, a new beginning, a new dawn would be ushered in by the True King of the world. And in time Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man came into the world and redeemed humanity dying, rising from the dead and ascending into heaven. Just as decay and death entered the world through our forefather Adam, so true renewal and life for all who wish entered through Jesus.

Paul says here that Jesus was the first example of new creation – one day God will finally return to recreate and restore this beautiful artwork of a world to its intended state. Charles didn’t believe that we would all sit in heaven strumming harps, he had a sure and certain knowledge that at the end of time God would return and usher in the new creation with no more pollution, no more ill health, no more grief or pain and no more death.


24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

As Jesus died on the cross he dealt the death blow to Satan and evil by turning their own weapons against them. Satan and evil are still in the world until the new creation, however they know are defeated and their time is limited. Their end will soon come.

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.

Here Paul explains what the resurrection will be like, and why physical death is necessary. It’s like the difference between an apple pip and an apple tree. No-one looks at an apple pip and says “if I plant this I’ll get a giant apple pip” they say “if I plant an apple pip I’ll get an apple tree which will make lovely apples”. An apple tree, an apple pip and an apple itself all have the same essence – they are all the same thing – but how they look is totally different from each other. And Paul continues:

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

How can someone come to this more amazing form if they have not been planted, if they have not died and been buried? Charles understood that physical death is a necessary passage – like planting a grain of wheat, an apple pip or some other seed; or perhaps like a caterpillar going into a cocoon and then emerging from the chrysalis as a butterfly leaving behind its shell to rot and decay as it has no more need of it.

In the resurrection Charles will be the same essence of how we knew him in his life but a more perfected and glorious form. In Charles’ final days when he was unable to say more than a few words at a time, unable to move from his hospital bed we were so upset and sad because we remembered a Charles at the peak of his life. But in the resurrection, even the Charles we knew at the peak of his life will seem like this compared to the awesome, amazing, completed, glorified and purified Charles that we shall see then. As my brother read earlier

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

One day the end will come, one day the new creation will come, one day death will be rendered dead and Jesus will be shown to be victorious, the true King over all creation. Today as believers in Jesus we can look forward at that time and spit in the face of death – yes it hurts now, but this is part of a greater process of renewal of this world and of defeat of evil. Charles realised this – he wasn’t afraid of death – saddened by the thought but not worried or scared by it because he knew it is a necessary step in the great picture of God’s plan for the universe. He knew that death was not a permanent fixture here.

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

This is what Charles believed in, standing firm, letting nothing move him he gave himself fully to the work of the Lord because he know that this was the one thing that lasts. This didn’t mean he shied away from things of the world – work, enjoyment, relationships – but rather in all that he did wether it was starting his own company and looking after and mentoring his employees, enjoying a good game of Cricket or hosting people at his house and cooking for them; he did this with the aim of pleasing God and as a labour of love to Jesus, living life to the full with Him.

He did not fear death, knowing as he read to me all those years ago that Jesus had said:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

Charles is in this place now, resting from his labours and enjoying the presence of his king and redeemer, Jesus. And one day all who follow Jesus will meet him in the new creation, with a renewed body, and realise that what we saw in this life was but a shadow of the true Charles, and get to enjoy an eternity together with him. We come today to celebrate his life, to say goodbye to this pip, this chrysalis of a body in the ground, and to assure each other that one day we will see him again in the fullness of life in the glorious new creation.

Some advertisments

The rock gospel choir that I’m in will be having a concert a week on Monday; which everyone needs to come along to. It’s at the West Road Concert Hall on 28th November at 7:30pm and costs £3. We had a really good rehursal last night and as anyone who’s ever been to a rev concert will tell you; they rock!

Also I’ve just updated the ISEC website so if you know of anyone interested in a free trip to China in the summer; point them there!

I also finished an essay on Mark’s account of the stilling of the storm. I’ve spent the rest of the day working on an essay on the transfiguration, and also doing a little bit of reading about Greek views of the afterlife for my coursework.

I’ve also just found a rather strange article about a type of lemur which has been named after John Cleese. Can this world get any weirder?

Today

Spent a day doing some research. I’ve created a research page here so if you click on the research button on the side and then click on “Psalms of Solomon” you’ll be able to find links to various notes and other things which I’m working on at the moment, if you’re interested in that stuff. I’ll put the dissertation itself up there as well as it evolves.

I went to the doctor’s earlier today to get my arm dressing changed, which was quite a faff. To start off, I had to fill in several forms stating that I was temporally resident at home. Apparently they can’t work it so that I am resident in two places at once… Anyway after quite a bit of form filling (although not as much as in China, I’m sure) I finally went through to see the nurse. The wound seems to be healing quite well so she put some more antiseptic on and then put a plaster on. However, apparently today my arms are just not sticky. We tried holding the plaster down for about 5 minutes while blowing on it and so on (apparently heat makes it stick?!). Finally we gave up on that plaster and she got out what looked like a sheet of selotape and she said this was the stickiest plaster in the world or something, and that fell off. Finally she got another type of plaster and tried sticking it on. It didn’t stick but she just quickly put the tube-grip back on my arm and pushed me out of the door before it could fall off a third time. I wonder how I can get sticky arms…

Wendy and Darrel came this evening, we had dinner with them (after my mother forgot they were coming and had to cook a dinner at 5 minutes notice!) and then told them about China.

Heard that Lillian and Lindsey (from our China team) are coming over from the states during November! Yay – it will be good to see those guys again 🙂 Also got an invitation to my cousin Jonathan’s wedding in December – should be fun.

I’ve been very impressed with unison a tool which synchronises two trees of files – it seems to handle deletes and changes on both ends very well; I’ve been using in for the past few weeks to keep my laptop and home computer in sync and it really works – I was fearing I’d have to start running a SVN like subversion or CVS to keep my stuff in order.

Also started re-learning French, German and Greek grammer. I learnt the French verb conjugations in 7 tenses for the 3 standard types of verb because we were never really taught it properly in school; it was much easier than I remember it being. Also started reading Mark in Greek as it turns out I didn’t do well enough to be able to do the fun advanced Greek course next year so I have to do Mark’s gospel instead… Oh well.

Work today

I’ve spent quite a productive day in the Divinity Faculty library with about 20 books trying to finalize what I’m going to be doing my dissertation on. I met up with my supervisor earlier and we decided to do it about the word group based on “righteous” in a set of Psalms written about 80-40BC and how the usage in that compares to that of Paul in the New Testament. I’ve got lots and lots of books out of the library to allow me to start work, including the latest critical edition of the text of the Psalms of Solomon which was published in 1895… Not much work has been done on this book of late!

Tonight, myself and Patrick will be going to grad hall at Jesus College which should be good fun. We met up with some people from Holy Trinity and Toby and studies 1 Peter today at lunch time in Greek which was quite scary because it reminded me how little Greek I know. Oh well! I should be coming home on Thursday but I’m not sure at what time.

Boredom

Revision is soooo boring.. For some reason my brain has just lost any will to work today. Was planning on getting up early but that failed after I was round watching the end of Pride and Prejudice with Rachel, Ellie and Alastair. Before that I went to Harry’s cafe and then we went to Jesus college formal hall which was ace fun.

I’ve been reading some of Luz’s ‘The Theology of the Gospel of Matthew’ today but it just doesn’t inspire me. He thinks that Matthew is writing for a Syrian community of Christians and doesn’t actually have that much relation to the church or the rest of the New Testament and doesn’t think that much of the ‘Historical Jesus’ actually exists in the book – quite a few things perhaps based on original Jesus sayings but no direct quotes really. I find it quite sad that so many theologians seem to think that because it does seem quite unnecessary – just comparing the gospel accounts, there are an amazing amount of parallels. He seems to swing quite a lot between calling Matthew a literary genius eg what he sees as Matthew’s wonderful crafting of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) but then there are some places where he says Matthew just looses the plot or forgets where he is and what he’s doing. Such a shame.

mmmm Welsh leeks

Came across a really clever idea – a leak detector for IE. It’s amazing how some of these simplist ideas (both to come up with and to implament) are some of the best. Havn’t used IE in many years but still its very cool and should be straightforward to do in moz/konq or whatever other c++ browser people use. Really ought to get back onto this ‘AJAX’ programming circuit – was fascinated by it about 5 years ago but things have moved on rather a lot since then.

Last night was really cool – saw Sam, Lydia, Serena and Emma for a few minutes because they were doing some mad jazz revision thing/party. Then went to the Barn where there was an Irish evening. Never realized the Irish had such weird phrases – out of the four that they said, the only two that I could vaguely understand were “top o’th’man’n tu ya” and “wh’z th’craic?”. Had a good look at Acts 3:11-23 with Yumi, Rena and Felix.

Spent this morning trying to learn to remember historical facts so as to write essays for my Church History exam next week, and also been revising some of the Matthew’s gospel paper… I find that very difficult as well. For some reason all the gospels seem to blur into one in my head – it wasn’t really meant to be like that, otherwise the early church would have accepted one of the “condensed” versions (there were several floating around by about 200ad).

Found an article about removing Bible’s from hospitals for fear that they would a) offend people of other faiths and b) spread the superbug. I think the second option has been disproved and as for the first one – how does just having the offer of being able to read a Bible offend someone? As far as I understand, hospitals stock all sorts of different “holy books” so if you’re a Muslim in hospital it’s no difficulty to ask for a copy of the Qur’an. I’m sure that if Muslims wanted to start up a Gideons type organisation to put copies of the Qur’an by every hospital bed, people really wouldn’t have a problem with it. (However, Muslims might well have a problem with it because they have a much higher respect for the physical copy of the Qur’an than Christians do with the Bible; for example it’s considered very bad to put the Qur’an on the floor). It really is Political Correctness gone mad.

Lazy days

It’s been another lazy day of revision and boredom (although the two usually go togeather). Read quite a lot of a thematic commentary on Matthew’s gospel by J. D. Kingsbury and also listened to one of the Hulsian lectures which N. T. Wright gave last year, the title of which was “Paul and Justification”. The talk I listened to was about Paul’s political scene and whether he was a political thinker. At some points, NTW seems to be reading too much into the text but I think on the broad picture he’s right that there are some resonances in the text which would have reminded people that “Jesus is Lord and so Caesar isn’t”. Not too sure on his political reading of Romans but I do agree that the Romans 13 section about obeying the governing authorities is actually bringing the rulers down a peg in terms of there is a higher king than them.

Found the following two pictures quite funny (click for bigger pictures):
funny/2source.jpg funny/church_stand_up.jpg