“The Sun of Righteousness is gloriously risen,
giving light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
How poignant is it that today we do not sing and the organ is not played – this day, of all days, when we gather to celebrate and give thanks for the life and resurrection of Warren, our church organist and choir director. It is poignant enough that some have complained and others have questioned this decision. Those complaints and questions come from our deep loss and the longing to hear the music of Warren’s life just one more time. Week after week, for years, decades, he gifted us with his music – music that was joyful, emotional, sacred; music that touched our hearts and changed our lives.
Shortly after his diagnosis Warren told me, “I do not want any music at my funeral.” He said, “It’s ironic isn’t it, that the organist and choir director does not want music at his own funeral.” I just listened and nodded my head. Then he said this, “I want them to hear, really hear, the words of the liturgy.”
I continued to meet with Warren over the next couple of months. As I listened to and watched Warren I began to understand that he was offering us another gift. What Warren knew and what he wants us to understand is that music is more than the sound we hear with our ears and life is more than the condition of the body. The absence of sound does not negate the music and the absence of the body does not negate life.
Warren knew that the music and life within him are immortal. That is what Warren is saying in his decision to have no singing and no organ playing today. That is what the liturgy is telling us. That knowledge is why Warren decided not to pursue medical treatment. He chose resurrection over resuscitation. He chose to be raised up. He knew that we all belong to God, we always have and we always will.
The spirit of belonging, of adoption, claimed and continues to claim Warren’s life – declaring him to be a child of God and if a child then an heir, an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ. He is heir to the eternal music of God’s life and love; heir to the resurrection of Christ; and heir to the Kingdom of God.
The music Warren hears, the life he now experiences, and the adoption that claims him are evidence of God’s faithfulness and presence, evidence that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And yet that is not about only Warren. It is also about every one of us.
Jesus said, “Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away.” Warren is the Father’s gift to the Son. He has been given, entrusted, to the Son. And the Son has raised him up. Warren has now taken his place among the communion of saints, the place that was prepared for him from the beginning of time. This does not mean he was taken from us in order to be given to the Son. What we see through eyes blurred with tears Warren now sees clearly. What we misunderstand through minds clouded with sadness and loss has now been fully revealed to Warren. What he fully understands and now experiences is that we all are the Father’s gift to the Son. Nothing is ever lost. We too have a place in the communion of saints, a place with Warren.
I met with Warren on the Friday before he died on Tuesday. He said to me, “Fr. Mike, I am completely unafraid. I have never before felt like this.” I said to him, “Warren, perfect love casts out all fear.”
In that short statement – “I am completely unafraid” – Warren claimed his resurrection:
“I have seen the Son and I believe in him. “
“I have already been given eternal life.”
“Now raise me up on the glorious last day.”
That is God’s will and dream for us. That is the fulfillment of Christ’s gospel. Today we experience, celebrate, and give thanks for the fulfillment of Christ’s gospel through Warren’s life and resurrection. That fulfillment is what allows us today to stand at the grave, hear the music of life, and join our voices to the eternal song, “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!”
What a marvelous homily. Thank you. I’ve known other musicians who’ve not wanted music at their funerals. Some have told me (quoting Aaron Copland) “you only begin to understand the music if you appreciate the silence between the notes.”
Thanks David. Warren understood and lived the silence. I suspect that is part of what made him such a brilliant musician.
Don’t take this personally, but church musicians are often better theologians than the priests.
That was certainly true about Warren. He taught me a lot and I miss him.
Warren’s service was so beautiful and fitting. Reading your words and hearing them for a second time made them even more special. Warren’s time was short, but what an impact he made for those of us who really got to know him. He blew me away in Sunday school. So intelligent, so thought provoking. You were lucky to have had each other as special friends. God Bless!
A thought provoking post, and enjoy reading it
Mike, I just finished reading your “Funeral Sermon for Warren”. While I did not know Warren, I did know OF him and his life-long dedication to music. Your sermon was poignant & touching – it hits home for me as I look at my own life as a musician. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.