A Homily for a Burial Eucharist

Marcia Coutant Averre

I begin with the line from Marcia's obituary notice that organized all my thoughts for this moment:


“As Marcia frequently said when gazing into the eyes of her loved ones, “We’re soooo lucky.”


There is nothing that gives a life meaning so much as gratitude.  An attitude of gratitude in someone makes them a good person with whom to associate.


Marcia was born into material prosperity, and she had the wisdom to appreciate that this is a gift that some, not all, are given.


I smile when I read the obituary, and combine that with my memories of Marcia.  She not only was born into material prosperity, she was also born into an environment in which people nurtured her talents, and she blossomed.


Looking at her photo, I notice the life in her eyes, the straight-on approach to the world that I read there.  Having been blessed from birth, she anticipated more blessing each day, and that was a blessing to all of us.


Marcia was probably well aware of the trials of the ancestors who were Huguenot; Protestants who fled dire persecution in France because of their religion.  I would imagine that this awareness informed her attitude of gratitude.


Marcia took good care of her health, and that helped her to reach the age of 96.  I would imagine that Marcia also knew that good health also is as much the result of genetics and of what for a lack of a better word we might call “good fortune.”  I’ll bet she was aware of that, and grateful.


Marcia was an artist, too, and despite her parents’ misgivings, married her artist lover and companion and musical collaborator. How good is that?  That’s a story that makes me want to applaud!

Marcia got to do the things that make people clap and cheer and even get up on their feet; the things that flood the listener with feel-good hormones and leave the performer spent but filled with a deep satisfaction.


The world is often not kind to artists.  The world often doesn’t know what to do with artists.  But we need them badly.  We need the music, the well-crafted words, the visual creations that change our perspective.  Without it our souls wither.  I’m grateful that God gives us artists like Marcia, like Richard, her husband, whose music we hear today, like the musical artists among us today.


Marcia and Richard were people who blessed the Church with their presence and their art.  Perhaps Marcia, with her awareness as to how much she was blessed, was aware of the call of Mary’s song, the Magnificat, which we will soon read in Advent to orient us once more.  In that song is announced the humbling of the mighty and the exaltation of the humble and meek.  The call of that song is to come to know God as compassion, and to live for others.


The Gospel we read today tells us that God has come near us in Jesus; has become present for us.  The weak and downtrodden of this world often know of someone powerful who could help them, but is too distant from their distress to be of any help.  There are people who sympathize, but who don’t have the power to help.  The Gospel tells us that God is present to all of us, calling us from spiritual death to life, so that we might also become children of God as Jesus was, and be present where help is needed.


Marcia experienced great love in her life.   I think she knew that love was to be shared and extended.  I would guess that Marcia would have understood the wisdom of the poet who wrote:


For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.


Marcia, I believe, knew God; the God who loved her, yes, but also who loved all God’s children and calls them to recognize in one another the Beloved.  Auden was right: none of us are loved alone.  On the verge of a World War, Auden sat in a “dive on fifty-second street” and felt himself part of a human race that seemed to him in that time to be


Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good


No one exists alone,” he wrote.  “We must love one another or die.”


This was the vision of the prophet Isaiah, who wrote the words with which we began our Scripture readings.

We heard there of a feast prepared for all peoples; a feast of rich food and wine.


We heard there of the removal of the shroud of grief and death cast over all peoples.  We heard that death would be swallowed up in life, and that God would wipe away tears from all eyes.


“It will be said on that day,” writes Isaiah, “Lo, this is our God, we have waited for God, so that God might save us.”


That day is here, among us, if we but awaken to it.


May God grant each of us the capacity to receive that, and to be able to say with Marcia: “we are soooo lucky.”


poetry by W. H. Auden, September 1, 1939.  https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/september-1-1939