REST IN PEACE
The other week, Patsy and Helen wanted to know what the title of my little Homily was going to be, so that they could put it into today’s Order of Service. I wasn’t really sure, until I was sitting in Church last Sunday morning. That’s when it just sort of came to me: “Rest In Peace!” I wanted the title to reflect, or at least summarize, the essence of the previous reading, in particular the bit where Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus is saying that He will give rest to anyone who comes to Him, that that person will find rest for their soul.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Labouring and being heavy laden includes the troubles we face in this life. However, it also means being weighed down by the knowledge of what the Bible calls “sin”, an acute knowing that you don’t measure up to God’s standards. It’s the burden of an awakened conscience, an accusing conscience that gives you no rest – until you come to Jesus!
The meaning of this is deep, very deep, deeper than the deepest ocean. It is beautifully summed up in the words of George Matheson’s beautiful hymn:
“O, love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”
The love of Jesus is the type of love that will not let you go. It is an eternal love, a love that lasts forever. That’s why George Matheson could write those words, “I rest my weary soul in Thee!”
Matheson was born in Glasgow in 1842. He wrote that hymn forty years later, and said, “I am quite sure that the whole work was completed in five minutes.” It sort of just came to him on the eve of his sister’s wedding.
Matheson himself had been engaged to be married some twenty years or so earlier. But when his fiancée discovered that he was going blind, and that there was nothing the doctors could do about it, she said that she couldn’t go through life with a blind-man. So she left him! His sister’s wedding reminded him of that tragic time. His sister had looked after him in his years of blindness, and now, by getting married, understandable as it was, she was leaving him too!
People will disappoint you. They have their own lives to lead with their own sets of problems, but the love of Jesus will never let you go! You need to rest in Him. His rest is forever. As did George Matheson before him, so Allan Barker has entered into His eternal rest.
It causes us pain to lose a loved-one. But Jesus says, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” He wants us to come to Him, and to be yoked to Him, as in the old days oxen were yoked or joined together to plough a field or whatever. Jesus says His yoke is easy. It’s easy and light because He does all the heavy-lifting! But you have to open your heart to Him. You have to trust Him, trust His promise, even in times of grief, times when we go through pain.
“Oh, joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.”
Allan loved rural Australia. Can you picture a thunderstorm rolling through the Outback? Can you see the ghost gumtrees against the backdrop of dark thunderclouds? Can you hear the sulphur-crested cockatoos shrieking as they flee the deluge? Can you see and smell the steam rising from the hot earth after the storm has passed through? Can you see the magnificent rainbow in the sky?
George Matheson said that he changed only one word after he had written his beautiful hymn, because he was asked to. It’s in the line that speaks of the rainbow, the sign of God’s covenant promise. Instead of, “I trace the rainbow through the rain” the original had “I climb the rainbow through the rain.” Climbing rainbows in the rain gives a picture of hardship, weary toil. The years of weary toil are over for Allan Barker!
I visited Allan a few times when he was at the Care Centre in Ferny Grove before he moved down to Victoria. One of the things Allan is remembered for is being a Rat of Tobruk. He was twenty-two years old when he was involved in the Siege of Tobruk in1941. Surviving that he then went on to reach the rank of Lieutenant and even living to the right good age of ninety-eight! Wow!
One of the downsides to living that long is that you lose a lot of your old friends over the years simply by outliving them! Then Allan lost his wife Daphne (Del) in October 2012. How hard it is to lose the ones we love! And now it’s Allan’s turn. So, we say for Allan, a friend, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather, a great, great grandfather, and a Rat of Tobruk, “Rest In Peace.”