Funeral of Theodore Osborne, St. George’s Church, Nashville, July 1, 2023

“This is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (Jo. 6:39).

Today, thank God for the liturgy, and for the prayers of the Church. There are times in our lives when we must rely on the accumulated wisdom of the centuries; on the experience of generations of people who have prayed in extremis; on the firm foundation of faith reflected in Holy Scripture. The raw end of the universe constitutes a weight that we cannot bear alone. Today, this weight is borne by the liturgy and prayer we have been given, which capture the wisdom and experience of the faithful, and sets that wisdom and experience through the Scriptural prism of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our liturgy today, and our Gospel reading, places the promise of eternal life firmly before us. It does this by echoing themes that we find in the other Gospels, as John’s Gospel often does, and giving us a different frame. In our reading, Jesus tells the crowd who have followed him across the lake, after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away” (Jo. 6:37). There’s an echo here, perhaps, of Jesus’ words of invitation in the Gospel of Matthew, “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you” (Matt. 11:28). In Matthew, Jesus is ready to receive the burdened laborer; in John, he’s ready to welcome everyone who seeks him out.

There’s also another echo here. Jesus goes on to say that it’s God’s will that he should lose nothing of what he’s been given. The echo comes from St. Luke’s three parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” (Lk. 15:3). “Rejoice with me” (in the second parable) “for I have found the coin I had lost” (Lk. 15:9). Or again, “This brother of yours was dead, and has come to life; he was lost and now is found” (Lk. 15:32).

 In our Gospel today, Jesus’ welcome to the weary, and his search for those who are lost, is set firmly within the frame of eternal life. “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day” (Jo. 6:40). It’s the virtue of John’s Gospel to set Jesus’ words and actions upon the largest stage possible. Here the stage is the broad one of eternity, and our longing for something more. The wandering sheep; the lost coin; the prodigal son are not just found, but eternally secured. Jesus’ welcome for the weary is not just for a season, but for all time.

Resurrection life is exactly what’s called upon in our liturgy today. Jesus’ promise to us is “I will raise them up on the last day” (Jo. 6:40). Death is a cruel enemy, but Jesus is victorious. He’s risen from the dead, the one who goes before to prepare a place for us. It’s God’s will that in Jesus nothing is lost, but raised up at the end. That is our faith. The kingdom is coming where every tear will be wiped away. Even now, we are longing for it, for new resurrection life that is secure in God. There, in that kingdom, the lost is found, and the family is gathered, in the presence of the One who never lets go.

Caroline and Robert: we and the people of your parishes in particular, and St. George’s as well, are so grateful for your ministries, and for your vocation together as parents. This is a great grief and sorrow, both for you and for Verity and the rest of your family. We who love and honor you will continue to bear you in prayer. Wherever you are, and whatever you do, today and tomorrow and in the years to come, you will always be Teddy’s parents, and for that we thank you. Even more, you and we and Teddy himself, are brothers and sisters in Christ, and for that we thank God. Our hope is in him, who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Our Lord and Savior never turns anyone way, and he will never lose anyone who has been given to him.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee