Ron Kibble's funeral today, and I'm dreading it... should be big, so I hope that Pat and the family take some comfort from that. I have a staff meeting before that, but it just feels like one of those days where I am not sure how I will do everything that needs to be done.
Herewith a draft of what I will say at 12noon:
You might think that this afternoon’s reading, Jesus promising rest to those who come to him, seems a strange choice when thinking about and remembering Ron. Ron the footballer and referee of some 50 plus years. Or even Ron, who worked in housing In Aylesbury, Hemel and Chilterns Districts, organising the first private sales of council owned housing. Or even Ron the passionate gardener, fuscia grower and lawn mower. Yet today we also remember Ron, who bravely and sometimes stubournly grappled with illness over the last couple of years. Also Ron the man of quiet and yet sure faith in God through Jesus Christ.
Ron didn’t do rest. When I first met him and Pat he was heading up to London twice a week, gardening, activiely involved in the lives of others Retirement was still busy and fruitful. And yet today God offers Ron rest.
I suspect that latterly, Ron has been looking forward to the rest that God offers him today. Throughout the Bible, God promises rest to people who acknowledge his pressence and who live the way asked of them. In other words, those who come to God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
Jesus says that the rest on offer can only happen when we agree to take on a yoke. Yokes focus the animals wearing them in a particular directions, on a particular task. I struggle to see Ron as someone who would easily be yoked, that said his focus on a task was sometimes almost single minded.
Throughout his life, Ron has worn Jesus’ yoke of love. Faith in Jesus Christ has been such a quiet and reassuring pressence in Ron’s life, and through that faith, Jesus has walked alongside Ron, worked alongside him, played alongside him. Where Ron was, Jesus was too. When life became hard to deal with, especially due to illness, Ron was often confident that he would get through - Jesus’ reassuring pressence carried them both forward.
Ron’s faith in God was not some sort of insurance policy that he could cash in at a later date. Neither was it a sort of moral compass for him. As we stood at the door each week after the 8am service we would talk about the normal stuff of life, and a shared passion for football (conversations that I miss hugely I hasten to add), Ron was always thankful - even in the face of adversity and uncertainty. Ron was thankful - even when he had been fouled badly like he had been over the last couple of years and was taken off the pitch - Ron was thankful for the way that God had guided his life, watching, loving, protecting. Ron’s faith was about now, about life and how to live it, and certainly not the great hereafter.
Today, following Ron’s example, must be about thankfulness to God for all that he has and will continue to be to all of us, and for everything that we have in life - however difficult our own situations might be from time to time. Today must also being aware that God offers Ron, real and lasting rest from the burden he has carried. He struggled stoicly with illness at the end, today he suffers no more and God offers him what contemporary society so badly needs - real and lasting peace - where peace is freedom from worry, freedom from illness, freedom from frustration, freedom from fear - and in their place God offers the living and beating heart of Christian faith - a knowledge that with Him - all will be well.
Today must also be about God, for today even in our sadness, God offers us his yoke of love, which as Ron will tell you, was not a burden to wear, but light and easy. God will walk, work and play with us - enabling us to find His direction in our lives however hard they may be fro time to time.
When we do take on that yoke and find faith in God for ourselves, we will each find a simple thankfulness in life, a thankfulness that Ron knew. We will also be able to receive God’s greatest of gifts - the lasting and fulfilling peace we all long for. Amen.