Friday, 6 July 2012

A funeral address

I had to take a funeral yesterday for someone I got to know reasonably well in the two years i have been on King Island.  I always find funeral services particularly difficult.  I want to comfort those there, but I also want people to think about their own mortality.
This is the address I gave yesterday.

Today is a sad occasion it is Ken’s funeral.  For many of us on King Island, Ken was a long time resident and involved in many Island organisations ... a very well known and respected member of our little community ... for others Ken was a good friend and mate; someone whose company and friendship will be missed .   For his family he was Dad, grandfather, uncle or cousin; someone who was loved deeply and who will go on being remembered and missed for as long as you live.
 We are here today to share our grief and support each other through that sorrow.   Death is painful, it is not something we like to dwell on but lately it has been unavoidable.  Someone said to me when they heard Ken had passed away that he is the 10th person they knew with King Island connections to have died in the last couple of months.  Poet John Donne wrote ...
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
As well as any manner of thy friend or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Death diminishes us, the death of someone we know changes us.
I have usually taken scripture classes in most of the places I have worked.  In my last place, Norfolk Island I had most of the children in the local school at some time over the four years I was there.
Classes often said ... “Why do we have to waste time doing this when we should be doing something important like maths or science?
The last year I was there was very different.  During the school holidays the brother of one of the boys in the class I was to take died in very tragic circumstances a few days before the first lesson.  So instead of the lesson I had prepared we spent the time letting them express how they were feeling and trying to answer any questions as best I could that they had about death when they asked.
I prepared the next weeks scripture lesson but the week before had raised more feelings and more questions for the class so we spent that lessons as well looking at the possibilities of what might happen after death, what other people and faiths taught  and when they wanted to know, I told them what I believed.   Over the next weeks we looked at life’s other big questions: why are we here?  What did they really want from their lives?  How would you know if you had wasted your life? 
Six months later one of the boys (as 6th class boys will) started mucking up.  I did not get a chance  to do or say a thing because one of the other boys got up told him to be quiet ... “the stuff we were talking about was really important.”
What we believe about life and death if we stop and take the time to consider it properly, is important.  When we look at the possibility of our own mortality it can change our priorities, it can sort out what is really important to from what is not.
It can help us face our death and can give comfort when we mourn the death of someone we love dearly.
I believe that the grave is not the end.  We are all made to live beyond the grave.  All the major faiths share that belief in common but they do not all agree on what that life is like, or how you get to enjoy it.
For me I believe we receive that life as a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ, who lived, died, rose from the dead and showed himself to hundreds of witnesses as proof of who he was and that life is eternal.
We all have to make up our own minds what we believe.  Today I want to encourage you to take that question seriously and not just brush it off as of no importance.  Ask yourself what do  you believe happens after death? and What evidence do you have for believing it?
Can you face your own mortality with confidence?
... any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.And therefore never send for whom the bell tolls; for tomorrow it may toll for thee.

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