Reflection, sermon on Ga Mantse Tackie
Tawia III's burial
Text: Zephaniah 3.14-end; Matthew 28.1-10, 16-end
Preacher: Canon Gilly Myers, Precentor
Yesterday we had a most unusual funeral at Southwark Cathedral.
It was for a Ghanaian tribal chief of the Accra region who died
in London, and the nave was absolutely packed full of people
from the Ghanaian community – many were local, and several had
come over from Ghana for King Tackie Tawiah III’s funeral
Almost the entire congregation was dressed in red and black
(their traditional colours) – many were in traditional dress and
they all looked very splendid indeed.
The core of the service was a regular Church of England funeral
with Holy Communion, but there were several traditional elements
intertwined with the more familiar liturgy.
The tributes were preceded, for example, by a traditional
biography, read from a specially-prepared brochure; and as the
biography and several tributes were read from this brochure, a
group of flautists took it in turns to play a soulful lament on
wooden instruments that looked rather like recorders. So the
woodwind music and the reading were going on at the same time.
Then one of the Bible readings was read first of all in English
and then in the Ga language.
And towards the end of the service, before the Committal, the
entire congregation filed past the huge copper casket to pay
their respects, while everyone sung a selection of songs –
simultaneously in English and in Ga.
King Tackie Tawiah was a member of the Anglican Church, and this
was a congregation clearly used to singing and to joining in
with Anglican responses with gusto. They could teach most of us
a thing or two! When, for example, I said the opening line to
the response in the prayers, the reply came back with such a
volume that it felt like a wave, washing over me!
The end of Matthew’s gospel:
As I was reflecting on the funeral, I knew also that I would be
preaching this afternoon on the closing verses of Mathew’s
And as I thought about it, both the funeral and the gospel
reading seemed to bring together two different but connected
The first is Jesus’ command to ‘Go and make disciples of all
The second is Jesus’ resurrection itself.
Make disciples of all nations:
It is remarkable, isn’t it, just how seriously Christians over
the centuries have taken that command to spread the message way
beyond their own home countries and their own comfort zones.
Without their missionary zeal, the faith of the early
Christians, sometimes called ‘The Way’, could have fizzled out.
But their story was simply too compelling for that, and the good
news was taken to the ends of the earth. So the good news
reached these islands – probably by a variety of routes; and the
good news reached Ghana; and here we were – Christians from
Ghana and Christians from England (and others from America and
who knows from wherever else) expressing our common hope in the
risen Jesus, who shows us all the Way.
You will be aware, I am sure, that our congregations in
Southwark Cathedral tend also to be multi-cultural and
international, which makes life very interesting, so I was
wondering why yesterday struck me so particularly. I guess that
it is because of the particular intensity and richness of the
The common inheritance of all Christians is that we experience,
to some extent, the resurrection side of death; and this is how
the funeral links up with the resurrection account that we heard
from Matthew earlier.
First of all, we know about resurrection; it has happened. The
stone was rolled back from the tomb and Jesus wasn’t there. And
before very long people were encountering Jesus in the flesh,
raised from the dead. We have read about it in the Gospels, in
the Acts of the Apostles, and in the accounts contained in some
of the letters that we have in our Bible.
Secondly, our relationship with Jesus gives us a foretaste of
eternal life. We speak of the Kingdom of God having broken
through into our era. It is both now and not yet. There is more
to come and a fullness, a completeness that lies ahead for all
creation – and yet even now we are offered new life in this
life; life in abundance; life in God, and God in us.
It is a gift and a wonder. It is partial, but the partial is
real. It is like walking along a beach, choosing to place our
footsteps where the edge of the sea gently breaks in shallow
waves across our toes – we are straddling the now and the not
yet. One day we shall exchange the firm ground that is the
compact wet sand, for immersion into the sea of God’s love and
It is entirely because of the resurrection that we hold the hope
that we do at a funeral. Indeed, every funeral has a touch of
Easter about it. Jesus has gone before us. He has gone to
prepare a place for us. He has shown us the way; we need not be
afraid of the unknown.
And it is entirely because we have glimpsed the resurrection
side of death that we have good news to share. So, ever since
Jesus’ resurrection appearances, and the coming of the Holy
Spirit, the church has been doing just as Jesus commanded –
going to all nations; baptising and teaching, taking comfort in
his promise that he is with us always, to the end of the age.
Preacher: Canon Gilly Myers, Precentor
Posted July 11, 2013