Homily on the Occasion of A Celebration of the Life of Max Marshall Munro || Saturday, May 23rd, 2015|| Psalm 23; John 10: 11-16 || The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” –John 10:16
This scripture reminds me of Max, because I think that Max saw it as already fulfilled. Now, before you think I’m talking about the wrong man, let me explain what I mean by that.
You see, Max —the faithful seeker, doubter, skeptic and lover of all things existential—was way ahead of most of us in his understanding of the essential unity, oneness, and wholeness of all of life. And he was able to pick up hints of that essential oneness and connect even the slightest evidence of it across any number of intellectual disciplines and fields of study.
Max’s spiritual and intellectual life was a journey from pretty traditional, mainstream Methodism, through the complex lens of Jungian psychology and the open-mindedness of Anglicanism, into the celebration of interfaith dialogue and pluralism, and finally to a fascination with the interrelatedness of quantum physics, life after death, neuroscience and religious experience.
You will not be surprised to learn that Max and I did not agree on all things theologically. I have a much higher Christology than Max did—which is to say that I believe strongly in Jesus’ divinity. And while Max didn’t feel he could, in good conscience, affirm the historic faith of the church in the words of the Nicene Creed, he was always open to exploring different interpretations of those words and to getting at the truth that lay behind them.
So while for Max “the jury was out” when it came to Jesus being the Christ, he did believe that there are many different sheep, and many different sheepfolds in which they gather, and that ultimately they are all one. And he knew, and respected, that there are multiple ways of perceiving and describing that oneness. He understood that in using those words Jesus was simply expressing a timeless truth about the nature of reality in a way that the people of his time and place could best understand it.
Max was by far the most faithful doubter I’ve ever known. Week after week he and Patti were here in church; week after week they were in Bible study; week after week they came to book group. And in between he watched I don’t know how many of the Great Courses videotapes he so loved—learning from the likes of Bart Ehrman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Amy Jill-Levine… studying, as Gordie Stevenson wrote in an email, “everything from theology to church history, to astronomy, the cosmos, physics, political history, you name it!”
Max never stopped searching for answers, never stopped engaging the God whose nature he so wanted to define and understand, never stopped wrestling with the big questions about life and love, meaning and truth. He was an insatiable learner and seeker. We can only imagine how ecstatic he is now to finally know….to have all of his questions answered at last…and to understand it all.
And that brings me to the second piece of scripture that reminds me so of Max. It’s from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, and it goes like this:
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Now Max sees face to face, rather than dimly. Now Max knows fully, as he’s been known fully all along. Now Max is one with the Divine Reality for which he so hungered.
And I’ll bet he got one heck of a surprise when he saw Jesus there to greet him, welcoming him with outstretched arms. Amen.