Summary: Funeral sermon for Henry L. Stewart, local resident, known as an amateur artist. The images of the four living creatures in Revelation become metaphors for the stages of life.
Some look at the earth, but never see the sky. Some see the sky, but never fly. But to some it is given to see and to fly. To some it is given to be an eagle, soaring with strength and power. But I must ask – do you know how empty the eagle is before he flies? From empty to eagle; do you know what that journey is like?
We begin our lives empty. We are as infants, hungry, ravenously hungry. Babies want nothing more than to eat and sleep, eat and sleep, eat and sleep in a constant cycle of satisfying themselves. Babies are not capable of anything more. They are empty; but they are on their way to being eagles. Well, actually there is one more thing that babies do, but we don’t speak of it in polite society. I will just mention that someone has described babies as insatiable at one end and irresponsible at the other, and leave it at that.
We begin our lives empty, hungry and thirsty, wanting others to take care of us. As we grow to adulthood, however, we discover that we have to go to work to support ourselves. We have to get into that daily grind that sometimes seems so mindless, but is necessary. You know what I’m talking about – we get up to go to work to earn a paycheck, which pays for the house, the food, and the clothes we need, so that we are refreshed and can get up tomorrow to go to work to earn a paycheck, which pays for the house, the food, and the clothes we need, so that – never mind. You get the picture. There’s an emptiness there, isn’t there? Day by day drudgery – that’s the unpleasant reality for many people. Their adult years are poured into a job, and they can’t even remember why they do it. Empty. But on the way, nonetheless, to becoming an eagle.
After our childhood and after our adult years, we get to a certain age. They say we are ready to retire. And when that happens, there is a new question to face, there is a new challenge to deal with: what did it all mean? Was it worth it? Did I spend my life in a useful way, or was it just “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I am just a couple of years older than Henry Stewart, and so I know some of the questions that he must have pondered at this time of life. I too think about whether my life has been empty or full. I know it has not been empty of things to do; there have been plenty of things to do. But do they matter? Are they fulfilling? It is a question that plagues a lot of people in their senior years. But, I say, they are en route to becoming eagles.
I am here today to offer the good news. I am here to reflect with you on Henry Stewart’s life and to measure whether it was empty or full, void or meaningful. For remember, some look at the earth, but never see the sky. Some see the sky, but never fly. But to some it is given to see and to fly. To some it is given to be an eagle, soaring with strength and power. But, as I have said, an eagle starts out empty before he flies.
Henry Stewart was an artist. The artist is a person who sees what other people see, but more. With canvas or clay, through music or dance, the artist sees the earth, but beyond the earth he sees the sky. And if the artist sees the sky, he even sees beyond it to the place where eagles dwell. The artist sees into the heart of God in a way that most of us do not. Henry Stewart was an artist who saw that way, and in order to reflect with you on his life, I am going to use the vision of a Biblical artist. A seer of visions and a dreamer of dreams, John, the writer of the Book of Revelation. John used vivid images to express what God is all about. I suspect that in John, in this painter of word pictures, we will find insights that will help us understand Henry and will teach us how God will take us from empty to eagle.
Listen to John’s vivid vision of what it is like in the presence of God. Only an artist like Henry Stewart could appreciate all of this, I suspect – gemstones and rainbows, robes and crowns, lightning and torches and crystal – what a picture!
So much for the background. Now comes the foreground. Four living creatures – full of eyes in front and behind (only an artist would think of that!). Look with me at these four living creatures, at what they are and what they tell us about life before God: