Summary: Funeral for a committed Christan woman who died at the age of 98 after a lifetime of service for God.

It won’t surprise you, I’m sure, to know that most of what we’re doing today was under Nat’s clear direction. I regularly encourage people to write down what they’d like to have happen at their funeral and she’s one of the few people who have actually done it. So the hymns, some of the prayers, the psalm and the Bible reading were all her choices. I ask people to do this so I have an idea what they’d like me to preach on when the day finally comes. And what a great passage Nat has chosen for us today.

"Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." If there’s one thing you’d have to say about Nat, over the years I’ve known her at least, it’s that she’s been content. I was actually preaching on this last Sunday, the night before she died. Sadly I’ve still got the copy of the sermon that was required to be given to her each week so she could read it over later and take it all in. But what I was preaching on was godliness with contentment. That pretty much sums up Nat Appleby wouldn’t you say? I don’t think I’ve met many people who are more godly or as content with her lot in life as she was.

But where did that contentment come from? Let me suggest that the passage she’s asked me to preach on gives us the answer. Jesus promised that whoever comes to him will never be hungry, never be thirsty. Those who come to Jesus have their heart’s hunger satisfied, their soul’s thirst quenched. I’m certain that part of that contentment came from the fact that she fed on God’s word day after day.

And I’m equally certain that Nat’s contentment came for the sure and certain knowledge that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, that he died and rose again so she could have eternal life and that he’d promised that he would lose none of those God had given him. This is what we just read: "{40}This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day."

There’s something special about meeting someone who knows they have only a short time left on earth and who’s actually looking forward to the end, to the day when Christ will raise them up to be with God in eternity. Most people who fear the end are really fearing the unknown. But not Nat. She knew what was awaiting her. She was content with life as it was, but she longed for the day when she’d go to be with her Lord. Hers was a deep and grounded faith in Jesus Christ.

As I said she was one of the most godly people I’ve come across, yet it’s interesting how Nat perceived her spiritual growth. If you were listening carefully to the final part of the eulogy, when Kaye read out Nat’s own recollections of her life and particularly her spiritual journey you may have noticed that it wasn’t until 1973, at the age of 63 that Nat began to explore and understand God’s word at any depth. I think there’s both a warning and an encouragement for us here. The warning is that unless we seek out God’s word we’ll miss out on the depths of knowing God that we could have had. But the encouragement is that it’s never too late to start. She says in her recollections: "I realized (this is in 1973) as never before that [the Bible] is God’s message to us; from it I learned the real significance of Jesus life and death – that altered my whole attitude to life." You know, she may only have started studying the Bible in depth at the age of 63 but that didn’t stop her making the most of the time left to her. There may be some here who were part of one of Nat’s Bible study groups. I’m sure you’d agree that the depth of her learning was amazing. I remember visiting her only a few years ago. She’d just started on Genesis and she had a long list of questions for me to answer before she led the next Bible Study. And they were the sort of deep questions you might expect from a theological student - which is just what she was, of course, even in her 90s. And I had a great time that afternoon working through answers with her to all those questions.

When Jesus says "I am the Bread of Life" he is of course speaking as the Word of God made flesh. Remember that’s how John begins his Gospel. And it was as Nat was fed on the word of God that she grew in her spiritual maturity, into a Christian woman of great stature. She loved it when I or one of the other preachers dealt with a text that she hadn’t heard preached on before. She’d always come up to me after a service and thank me for opening yet another part of God’s word for her. I know she was very encouraging to the Ridley students we’ve had here from time to time. She was also very encouraging of our youth and children’s ministries. In fact when we first raised some money to fund a part time youth minister it was Nat and her long term friend and house mate Roma Richardson who made the first commitment to support him.

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