Sermon given at the funeral of the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe

17 December 2014 at 12:00 pm

The Venerable Andrew Tremlett, Sub-Dean and Rector of St Margaret's

In the funeral rite of the Habsburg Imperial family, there is ceremony which takes place outside the Capuchin Church in Vienna, which has a more than a hint of the Palace of Westminster about it.

This last happened in 2011 at the funeral of Otto Habsburg, the son of the last Emperor: bear with me, you'll see the point shortly.
The Master of Ceremonies, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Black Rod, knocks three times on the Great West Doors of the Cathedral which have been firmly shut.
Who desires entry? Asks the Prior from inside
The MC replies: Otto of Austria; once Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary; Royal Prince of Hungary and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Illyria …
There then follows an extended list of royal titles and honours.
We know him not, says the Prior
(The MC knocks three times again)
Prior: Who desires entry?
MC: Dr. Otto von Habsburg, President and Honorary President of the Paneuropean Union, Member and one-time President of the European Parliament
- A similarly lengthy list of political, civic and religious honours
Prior: We know him not.
(The MC knocks three times again)
Prior: Who desires entry?
MC: Otto, a mortal and sinful man.
Prior: Then let him come in.
Sir Nick Harvey and Steve Ay-tack have spoken about Jeremy's political and personal life, and I now want to turn us to the Christian pilgrimage which is at the heart of this funeral service, and to pause on that moment when we are welcomed into the closer presence of God, not on the basis of our life's achievements but as mortal, frail human beings who are pilgrims for a time on earth.

Not as the Member for … or the Minster of State for …; not as Lord … or Lady …; not as Doctor … or Professor …; not as Reverend … or Rabbi;

But simply each and every one of us: 'a mortal and sinful human being' desiring entry into the kingdom of heaven.

This journey for many of us began at Baptism, where the water of the Font symbolises not only our being cleansed from sin, but also a ritual dying with Christ so that we may rise with him. We will recall Jeremy's baptism as the coffin is asperged, sprinkled with the water of Baptism.

It is a pilgrimage which takes us from the loving arms of a parent at the Font and entrusts us to the care of a gracious and merciful Heavenly Father.

It is the pilgrimage which each one of us - in our own time - makes, and on which we are privileged to accompany Jeremy today. And in doing so we are conscious that he now stands in the company of those who see God face to face, as the bidding prayer at the Parliamentary Carol service last week put it: he is one of

- those who rejoice with us, but upon another
shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope
was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are for ever one.

So when we are asked on our pilgrimage:

Who desires entry?

And we are able, in full understanding of what our life has really been about, to say 'I, a mortal and sinful human being', then without hesitation the answer of our loving God is

- Then let him come in!

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