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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

The funeral:

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 service.

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 Gospel.

And as I thought about it, both the funeral and the gospel reading seemed to bring together two different but connected strands.

The first is Jesus’ command to ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’.

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 occasion.


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 eternity.

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



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