I recently had a request from some one, bereaved in this Coronavirus crisis, who had read this sonnet in my book Parable and Paradox and wanted permission for her grandson to read it at his grandfather’s online funeral. Of course I granted that permission immediately and freely, and it prompted me to repost the sonnet here, in case their might be others to whom it might bring comfort or for whom it might express what they needed to say. If you, or someone you know would like to use this sonnet, either the text or the recording or both for an online general or memorial please feel free to do so, it was written for just such an occasion.
The sonnet itself is a reflection on John 14:1-3.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
This saying was not uttered on some sunny morning when all is going well, but on the night Jesus was betrayed, the night before he died, and in that poignant scene he shared their pain, and shares with all us the sheer tragedy of our mortality. But even as he prepared them for the sorrow of parting he also instilled in them the hope of resurrection, the hope of Heaven and homecoming which they could not yet see.
This passage in John is very often chosen, and rightly so, as a reading at funerals, because it expresses both empathy and hope, and when I came to compose this sonnet I was gathering together the thoughts and prayers of the many funerals I have taken and hoping to write something that might be helpful, in opening these verses for people who choose to have them read at a funeral.
I have also developed these ideas a little in a sermon I preached this last Sunday at Girton which you can listen to here
As always you can hear me read the sonnet by clicking on the title or the play button
Always there comes this parting of the ways
The best is wrested from us, borne away,
No one is with us always, nothing stays,
Night swallows even the most perfect day.
Time makes a tragedy of human love,
We cleave forever to the one we choose
Only to find ‘forever’ in the grave.
We have just time enough to love and lose.
You know too well this trouble in our hearts
Your heart is troubled for us, feels it too,
You share with us in time that shears and parts
To draw us out of time and into you.
I go that you might come to where I am
Your word comes home to us and brings us home.