We can well imagine the prayers offered by her mother and father in expectation of her birth. No doubt they said prayers of great joy and thanksgiving for her safe arrival.
Perhaps her parents trained her in prayer…who knows? One way or another, Jean learned that prayer is pillow talk that engenders love. Prayer folds other people into our love for God, and prayer incorporates them into God’s love for us. Jean knew better than to think of prayer as a “to-do list” for God. People who think of prayer as asking God for favors usually stop praying, but Jean’s prayer life grew and grew over the years.
No doubt during World War II Jean prayed as German bombers flew overhead in England. No doubt Jean prayed for the boyfriends who were killed in the war. She prayed at her marriage and prayed at the birth of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She prayed when divorced. And when her son, Graham, died, she prayed buckets of tears.
We can imagine the joyful prayers Jean offered when she met Angus Murray, and her constant prayers as they fell in love, were married, and drove into the sunrise together. Even in these latter years, I offered those prayers of thanksgiving for Angus Murray with Jean.
By the time we met, Jean prayed by writing endless sheets of yellow tablet paper. She poured out her heart in love letters to God. Likely you were featured in those love letters.
Whether Jean was trained to pray as a child or not, prayer was a grace-gift from God. She had what we call the charism of prayer. And she carried that grace-gift with her, all the way to heaven.
Jesus taught Jean to pray by example. She discovered God’s love perfectly expressed through Jesus Christ at church and in the Bible. She knew well what Paul wrote about the Holy Spirit groaning for us with sighs too deep for words. Jean recognized that God prayed her into existence. She knew beyond knowing that Jesus prayed for her from the cross when he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” She understood that the communion of saints prays for us constantly before the throne of glory.
In her prayers right now, no doubt Jean wants us to know that at the moment of her death she was taken up, given a spiritual body, and brought before Christ. She prays that we know how Jesus Christ accounted for her life through his own gracious, self-giving love and bestowed upon her the gift of life upon life. Jean wants us to know that her entrance into Paradise was filled with glory, with shouts of joy, with angels singing, with sweet embraces, with laughter, dancing, and–as her obituary mentioned–with handstands in long flowing dresses.
Of course, these images of hope might not be literally true. After all, death is a mystery. We won’t know what it’s like until we get there. Metaphor and poetry are the best we can do to imagine the truth of the glory upon glory of God’s eternal love. We are not supposed to know, because we walk by faith, just like Jean. We walk by faith because faith is the medium of love. Did you catch that important piece of wisdom? We walk by faith because faith is the medium of love. Without faith we cannot love, and God has faith in us. God placed faith in Jean, and she now shows us the way to the fullness of life. As Jean embraced life with gusto for ninety-two years on earth, so Jean has now been embraced by the Lord of Life. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
As you know, whenever she could Jean would say goodbye with the words, “God Bless you.” She even did so from her hospital bed, however difficult is was for her to speak. “God bless you” was the last message I heard from Jean, and maybe that’s true for you, too. “God bless you” is a prayer. She ended each encounter with a prayer, a blessing. So we will end this sermon and our memorial service with the prayer, “God bless you.”
God bless you, Jean Laing Murray. God bless you throughout the ages beyond ages. God bless you for blessing us. God bless you for blessing God. O God, we bless you for Jean. Amen.
The Rev. Rick Matters, preached at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Carmel