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Saturday, 29 October 2016

The wonderful experience of being loved and accepted by the Creator of all

John Turnbull's funeral service was held at North Hanwell Baptist Church yesterday. During the service I said:

We loved John firstly because he so obviously cared for and deeply loved Pam, making her incredibly happy, and later, as we came to know him better, also loved him for the man he was; warm, humble, loving, kind, grateful, intelligent and loyal – truly an amazing person. As well as his personal qualities, we all found ways of sharing some of his interests, whether football, food, films, gadgets, books or church.

The love that Pam and John shared and their appreciation of and acceptance of each other grew from their shared experience of being loved and accepted as they are by God. That is the good news of the Christian faith that God loves us so much that he sends his own Son into our world to live and die for us, in order that we can return to relationship with him.

As Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome (Romans 8. 1, 14-18, 29-39) there is no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus, instead we can behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father.” He has declared us “not guilty,” filled us with Christ’s goodness, gave us right standing with himself, and promised us his glory. Our wonderful reality is that we really are God’s children and share his treasures—for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too.

When we have that experience of being loved and accepted by the Creator of all, then we are able to share that same love and acceptance with others, as Pam and John did, in their marriage. How is it that someone like John who had spent the majority of his life as a bachelor, was able to love so fully and extravagantly when he found the one on whom he wished to lavish his love? It was because he had already received a similarly extravagant love himself through his relationship with Christ and that had freed him to love Pam as she deserves to be loved.

As Emma said, John, all of us adored you because you adored Pam. We were so pleased she had found somebody who made her so happy and we loved you all the more for it.

You might imagine that having loved in this way would make parting, through death, even harder. While the loss that is felt at John’s passing cannot and should be minimised, the love, that enabled Pam and John to love each other as they did, remains. The love of Christ is as extravagant and free for Pam, and any who receive it, and, as Paul says at the end of our reading, is a love that continues beyond death and is therefore a love from which John, and ourselves in future, cannot be separated:

‘For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.’

That is reality for John in the here and now. Death has not separated him from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. The love that freed him to love Pam as he did remains with him now and his experience of it is fuller and deeper for having gone through death into eternal life with God. We can, one day, join him in that experience of being swept up by and living in love. I know that there is nothing that would please John more than for each one of us to have the assurance that that love is there for us too.


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