Here is a version of the address I delivered at the funeral of JH on Wednesday this week. JH died quiet suddenly aged 58. He was a top bloke - always calling 'hello mate!' as I went to the shops locally. He never called me Simon. We never exchanged more that that, and yet he was surrounded by knowledge of the love of God. It was a special service...
In the name of Jesus Christ, who carries our burdens, and gives us rest. Amen.
The JH we are gathered here today to remember with each other before God, in some ways would hate today, being centre stage so to speak, because J, when he was at his best was an ordinary, much loved, down to earth, hard working chap. It's worth mentioning that ordinary here for me, for J, is not second best or something derogatory, but to do with the normal everyday good people we are sat amongst this afternoon.
J is much loved - the sheer number of you here today are testimony to the man. Today we are remembering a man of few words but somehow his 'hello' was worth more than that. We remember the J who would help out. We remember the J who strove to show a love that was patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, nor arrogant, nor rude to borrow Paul's words from our first reading.
In some ways I am hope J would have related to Jesus’ words that we heard today too. Jesus speaks those words at a time when the concerns a person had were real concerns, problems and issues about life that affected life at its core. The words speak of a life lived and engaged at a very personal, very real level, a life and level shared by countless other people over the years.
Our world is not ordinary and down to earth but complex and difficult and we worry about things as a result. Often we might look back through slightly rose tinted glasses to a time when work was hard but the rewards were real and tangible - good times though.
Jesus lived in a world where the biggest issues in a person’s life were the immediate, the ordinary, the results of hard work. And he spoke in language that the folk around him could understand.
Imagine you live in the 1st century, in Palestine. You listen to Jesus speak about the presence of God in the ordinary everyday things of life, and he tells you of working yeast into flour to make dough, he speaks of scattering seeds on the soil, he talks of weeds and of bushel measures. He speaks to you in simple terms using words that the ordinary, hardworking, everyday people like you can understand, words that tell you about your world, and that relate to your life. J would understand.
Jesus talks to us with words that ordinary, working people understand.
And it is with the same language that he brings us his gospel, his good news. Listen again: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
To you who labour from dusk to dawn, to you who struggle to put food on the table, to you who find life hard to deal with, to you who wonder where you fit in, to you who fear local crime and abuses of the people in power who keep you down; to you whose concerns in life can be a matter of life and death, his words are words of incredible comfort and promise. For you are weary and burdened, and you long for rest, you long to escape the yoke that your world has placed on you and be free to be you and to be loved...
So Jesus’ words are words of comfort, for all who have lived since they were first spoken. For they form a promise, for us. Jesus’ words speak to everyone. Jesus Christ offers refuge from the burdens of the world, and his offer is simple and to the point. Today God’s love which is patient and kind extends again to John and to us, offering all of us the ordinary, working people of the world like J, well earned rest in him. Amen.