Sunday, November 18, 2012

Reflection on life and death of Peter MacFarlane

A Reflection on the Life and Death of Peter MacFarlane
August 25, 1920 – November 15, 2012
All Saints Episcopal Church, Southern Shores, NC
Thomas E Wilson, Rector
23rd Psalm John 14:1-6
I was thinking about Pete this week and I was remembering a song that a bunch of us sung back in the 60’s written by Andy Stewart set to an old bagpiper song “Green Hills of Tyrol”. It concerns a Scottish Soldier far from home
There was a soldier, a Scottish soldier
Who wandered far away and soldiered far away
There was none bolder, with good broad shoulders,
He fought in many a fray and fought and won
He's seen the glory, he's told the story
Of battles glorious and deeds victorious
Sees leaves are falling, and death is calling
And he will fade away, on that dark land
He called his piper, his trusty piper
And bade him sound away, a pibroch sad to play
Upon a hillside but Scottish hillside
Not on these green hills of Tyrol
Because these green hills are not Highland hills
Or the island hills there not my lands hills
And as fair as these foreign hills may be
They are not the hills of home.

We are born in the image of God, born from the heart of God, and in our lives we wander far away and yet God is with us. Death is the time when we finally go home and rest in the heart of God, from where we began the earthly pilgrimage, with those we love. Heaven is not a place far away where we go after we die but a circumlocution we use to describe the presence of God wherever we are. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us that we ask for God’s Kingdom on earth as well as in heaven. When Jesus says in John’s lesson for today that he is going to prepare a place for us; he is not talking just about after we kick off but he is talking also about his crucifixion and death so that we will know that there is no God-forsaken place; for God is in all places even when it doesn’t feel like it. From the 23rd Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Celtic Spirituality, of which the Scots are part, believed in what they called “thin places” where the curtain between this world and the next could be especially thin and when our eyes were opened we could see how interactive they were. Thin places can be geographic; it is one of the reasons that I live on the Outer Banks; whenever I feel like I am obsessed with my own agenda, I go down to the beach and walk so that I am able to see how out of touch I am with the things that are really important. 
But, thin places are also non-geographic where we allow our eyes to see God in the space between us. Jesus reminded us; “Whenever two or three are gathered together in my name I will be in the midst of them.” The thin space is there when there is love; like between Pete and Betty. The thin space is there when we act with honor, like Pete did. The thin space is there when we live in integrity like Pete did. The thin space is there when we realize that the world does not revolve around us for we are called to care for our neighbor, like Pete did in his armed service to his adopted country and in founding the Volunteer Fires Department in this community of Southern Shores. The thin space is there when we see people who decide not to practice dying in retirement but to live each day to the fullest as Pete did, as his neighbors watched this 92 year old man climb up tall ladders because he need to fix something in his yard because he saw the world as something for which he continued to be responsible. The thin space is there as we mourn for him and realize that as the piper plays his soldier home, part of Pete’s spirit lives within those of us who were honored to share parts of his life. Jesus said: “In my father’s house there are many mansions” and as we gathered together in thanksgiving for Pete’s life we are in one of those mansions.

We give thanks today for Pete’s life and to see him come all the way home.

This is a version that Stewart sang and we had a bagpiper play the Green Hills of Tyrol

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