Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.

Last week's funeral

Traditionally, men are not supposed to get on with their mothers-in-law. That was not the case with my mother-in-law, Iola. I do remember that when our first son was born she put a little gentle pressure on us to use more environmentally friendly Terylene nappies rather than disposables ones but the pressure (which we resisted) was never more than gentle. She was a strong nationalist and lover of the Welsh language and just occasionally we would both go at it a little too strongly and have to make friends again. For the rest, however, she made it very easy for me over my more than 25 years of courtship and marriage to her eldest daughter.
I had first come to know her the 10 years or so before that from when I came as a student to Aberystwyth. I'm sure she found me a rather strange boy with my theories about what constitutes working class and other strange and often dogmatic notions. She was always ready to listen and then to point out my absurdities. I soon got to see what a strength she gave to her husband, who I admired and sought in certain ways to emulate.
I heard when I was still a student that in college her Hebrew was better than Geoff's and in more recent years when the Banner of Truth published John Aaron's translation of Owen Thomas on the atonement controversy and people were remarking that it was a mark of every truly cultured Welsh speaker that they had read Thomas's biography of John Jones, Talsarn, from which the volume came, I was not surprised to have it modestly confirmed from her own lips that, yes, she had read all 1060 pages of the two volume work!
These last few years, since her dementia began, have been trying ones for the family and we hope that her eventual death after five or six weeks hospitalisation and last Thursday's funeral have done something to help them in this very trying time. I know that the abundance of messages of sympathy that Geoff and his daughters have received have been greatly appreciated.
At the funeral my father-in-law gave a very full and moving tribute laced with gospel lures and my son Rhodri preached a very clear and helpful sermon at the chapel.
We began with the burial on a warm enough autumn day on a hill above Aberystwyth before removing to Alfred Place Baptist Chapel, where something like 250 had gathered. As a member of the family I sat where I never sit - in the front pew, 12 inches from the communion table. I thought I'd never sat there before but I was reminded that I'd sat there when Eleri and I married. Before the wedding, I recall, Iola had asked that I would not wear a red tie (she'd seen me in one and I'm sure thought it looked rather socialist and proletarian). I obliged by wearing one of a slightly less socialist hue.
After the funeral we repaired to the hall below where it was lovely to talk with so many old friends and make a small dent on the mountain of food provided. It is always a privilege to be at the funeral of a Christian, especially one you know. Rhodri and Geoff shared lovely things. I liked Rhodri's description of how as a young teenager he, the oldest grandchild, was given by her, instead of Easter chocolate like everyone else (and what he would have preferred) B A Ramsbottom's Biblical doctrines simply explained. Her delight in God and his  kingdom was central to what made her such a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and indeed mother-in-law too.
I don't find it hard to believe that her soul is with the Lord, which is far better. It is amazing to think that 75 years have flown by so quickly, however. Even the 39 years I knew her have galloped by. It is sobering to think that so very soon it will be over for us all.
We had to sing a Welsh hymn, of course. I once attempted a fairly literal translation it turns out (you can find Noel Gibbard's one in New Christian Hymns). The original is by John Elias.

Did he for my mistakes,
Great Jesus, face such plight,
When, in power, his love came down
To earth from heaven's height?

The law so pure he kept,
To justice true he stayed;
The massive debt, although so great,
In full he now has paid.

Obedient on the hill,
He suffered death in woe;
His blood the black Eth-iop-ian cleans
As pure as pure white snow.

His death, it is our death,
Through his work on the cross;
A legion, because of his blood,
Through death to glory pass.

When dying in our place
He, Jesus, bowed his head,
A way he made, through the rent veil,
To heaven's pure abode.

He conquered a black hell,
The serpent's head he bruised;
Through grace, from jail, to join God's own,
He brought a legion loosed.

(Noel Gibbard has, more poetically,

And was it for my sin That Jesus suffered so,
When moved by His all-powerful love He came to earth below?


Thy holy law fulfilled, Atonement now is made,
And our great debt, too great for us, He now has fully paid.


He suffered pain and death, When on the hill brought low;
His blood will wash the guilty clean, As pure and white as snow.


For in His death our death Died with Him on the tree,
And great the number by His blood Will go to heaven made free.


When Jesus bowed His head And, dying, took our place,
The veil was rent, a way was found To that pure home of grace.


He conquered blackest hell; He trod the serpent down;
A host from fetters He’ll set free By grace to be God’s own.)

2 comments:

Murungi Igweta said...

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. We thank the Lord for the life of our dear sister in Christ, Iola.

May the Lord give all the necessary grace and peace to Geoff. I was so blessed by their warm hospitality in April 2014. She was so kind, peaceable and gentle, the sort spoken of by Apostle Peter.

So it was such a delight to read Geoff's tribute to her.

Thank you very much for sharing this.


Gary Brady said...

Thanks Murungi
Every blessing