In the Canberra Times today there’s an article by Tom Reilly about the funeral service of Sandy and Steve Matthews who died in the recent floods in the Lockyer Valley. It stands out because the tone of it is radical. There is prescience of destiny, death as being a fulfilment, and the love of God as ‘first love’. This couple have a remarkable story that has reached us through a brief newspaper report — amidst political wrangling, tragedy, loss, nationalism, state-ism, mess, economic loss, heroism, here is a story of the human spirit.
I’ll just copy here the quotes which sketch the outline, that’s all there is. We are left to fill it in.
‘On top of the caskets, beside bunches of whiet lilies, were the cherished possessions of a husband and wife. An embroidered shawl and gold watch belonging to Sandy Matthews and the vests husband Steve wore when weightlifting.
‘And there was also Steve’s most treasured object — dog-eared, frayed, and with pages falling out was his leather-bound bible. . . . . . . . . . .
‘ “Steve used to have a saying,” recalled Pastor Eric Trad, “that people who have a Bilble which is falling apart lead lives which do not.” ‘ .. . . . . . . . . . . . .
‘ “Earlier this year, the pastor recalled (now Pastor Dan Murphy), both Steve and Sandy had told family and friends that, “they would not live to be old people, and they would go together”.
‘ “It was perfect, they both died at the same time. They will never have to grow old without each other,” he said. . . . . . .
‘All three pastors who spoke yesterday encouraged friends and family of the pair to take comfort as they would now be joining God, “their first love”.’
The article indicates that the congregation was one which shared their strong Christian faith, and that Sandy and Steve were very active in helping and fostering young people and running Teen Challenge Camps. They had four children (Sam 20 and Victoria 15, Dan 28 and Sarah 26)) — who survived the flood.
The story is startling because of it’s open functional Christianity. I’ve come across Parker Palmer’s observation that often we are functional atheists in our everyday life. One way of expressing this is to say that our underlying attitude is habituated to ignoring the ‘ever present help of the spiritual world’ –simply we take blame or responsibility to be ours or someone elses or something elses, ignoring, forgetting to let a loving God be part of the picture.
This story of the human spirit does not mention blame or responsibility. Tom Reilly has told a great story.