This sermon was written during a study week on 'death, dying, and bereavement' when we had to write a funeral sermon for one of a number of possible examples. The one I chose was of a man named Peter Alcott who had died in a train accident. He was an organ donor. He left a wife and three children and the wife was concerned about supporting the family as it had always been Peter who was the 'bread winner' and she had stayed at home to raise the children and look after the house. Besides name that was pretty much all the information given, so I had to fill our the story a bit more using my own imagination (of what I would have been told from the pre-funeral visits to the family.)
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled’ Jesus said. “Trust God – and trust Me too! There is plenty of room to live in My Father’s house. If that wasn’t the case, I’d have told you, wouldn’t I? I’m going to get a place ready for you! And if I do go and get a place ready for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, so that you can be there, where I am. And as to where I’m going – you know the way!”
“Actually, Master” said Thomas to Him “we don’t know where You’re going, so how can we know the way?”
“I am the Way” replied Jesus “and the Truth and the Life! Nobody comes to the Father except through me.”
When tragedy strikes in our lives, we are left with a sudden and unexpected hole in our hearts. When we try to put into words how it feels, our throats stop up till it actually hurts, our eyes grow tired from the tears, and the only thing we can do is weep, is cry for the loss we have suffered. To lose a much loved husband, a greatly loved father, brings up emotions that no doctor can heal, no tablet remove. It is good to weep over any loss, but especially one where you stand so helpless, having had no chance to care and prepare, no chance to even say goodbye. But let us use this service here today to say goodbye to Peter, to reflect on the life he lived, celebrate the joy he brought to those who knew him, and come together as a family to mourn his passing, and remember the hope we have in Jesus.
When I heard on the news about the train crash immediately my mind rushed, asking if anyone I knew was there. We never expect such tragedy to affect us, to affect our homes and our lives. But this is exactly what has happened with the death of Peter. My heart and prayers go out to all of those who lost loved ones in that terrible disaster and I pray for the peace of King Jesus to come to those who mourn.
Today we come together to remember Peter Alcott, taken from the world at the young age of 43, leaving his loving wife Sheila to protect her family at a time when finding jobs is hard enough. Peter also left behind three children, Sharon, Kevin, and Hailey, who he loved with all his heart and who remember how everyday he would wake them before heading off to the City with a smile on his face and a kiss for their cheek. They remember him as the loving dad who every Christmas dressed up as Santa– a sign of his irrepressible joy at giving to those he loved, and he loved none more so than his children. Sharon spoke to me of the jokes he used to tell when times were tough, when darkness and gloom were close by - how we long to hear such a light hearted joke now, just one more time. Kevin spoke of how last year his dad had taken the day off work, to take him fishing in the lake nearby their home – a time I am sure will never be forgotten. And Hailey spoke of the way how he would always be there when needed, when work at school got tough, when people got her down, he was always there to listen, to help even though he had mountains of work to do himself.
Peter was a giver, the kind of person who gives of themselves sacrificially. Taking long, long, hours at work to provide for his family yet still being there for them. Even in his death he gave something immensely precious – the gift of life to another. Peter was an organ donor, and when he died his heart was given to a student who had been terribly wounded in an unprovoked knife attack. Because of Peter this young man, Luke Oxley, has a long life to look forward to, because of Peter, Luke’s family are not facing the pain and immeasurable suffering those here today face. Truly Peter’s unstoppable joy and unending love and sacrifice are something to not only to remember fondly, but to take hold of and celebrate, to take hold of and emulate.
Two thousand years ago God came to this world; He took on our humanity, our frailty, our mortality, our emotions, our pains, our joys. He came to earth and was known as Jesus the Saviour. And in His death, God, Jesus, also gave sacrificially, He died on a Cross atop Calvary that we might live – died that we might live forever washed cleaner than clean, made whiter than snow in the eyes of God. By dying for us here on earth, by dying for all the mistakes we have made, no matter how small or large, Jesus became the Way to eternal life, to eternal joy, to eternal peace with God. And Jesus was the Truth, and that truth is simple – that God loves all of us more than we can possibly imagine. This love is not a magic amulet that protects us from all pain and loss, it does not give the ability to never be sad or never to mourn, but it is a promise that God is here right now besides us in our grief. He holds out His arms to hold us close, to tell us of a love that defeats even death itself, of a light that destroy all darkness. All that we need to do is accept that the man Jesus, and only Jesus, not some philosophy or scientific theory, is the Truth that leads to eternal life. And if we believe in Jesus, if we follow that highway of holiness that is Jesus, then we are given, freely the Life that is in Jesus. Jesus died that we might live, that we might be saved from this broken world, and live forever with Him in a Kingdom with no pain or sorrow or death.
It is good and right to grieve, to mourn, and to weep, at the great loss of Peter; his family, his friends, and this church community shall deeply and surely miss him. My prayers and sympathies go out to all who are in pain and are left lost because of this sudden tragedy. But let us use this time to remind us of the frailty of this life, that we might live everyday to the full, that we might love and live in joy as we remember Peter doing, and we might take hold of the sacrifice of Jesus, the promise of eternal life and peace that is only found in Him.