Thursday, 18 March 2010

An address for the funeral of SAC Luke Southgate, 19th March 2010

Luke was 20. He loved life. We’ve heard that. He was already looking beyond the current conflict to life together with a girl he passionately loved. But he died on active service. He died doing a job that he loved,  doing it with people he deeply cared about. He died doing his duty, serving in the RAF Regiment and serving his country. He died for his friends

That – we heard in our reading - is the definition of love: the giving up of your life for your friends.

We often speak of the courage and the sacrifice of the men and women who serve in our armed forces. It is right to do so. But we also need to speak of the immense sacrifice that is made by the families left behind: of the wives and husbands, mums and dads, the fiancées, the girlfriends and boyfriends. When they sign up and go off to places of conflict, it is as if you have signed a blank cheque on your heart; you pray that that cheque will never be cashed, but you also know that at any time it could be. Today for you Keith and Kate, for the brothers and sisters of Luke, and for you Caley, part of your heart has been ripped away, and you too have paid an awful price.

That is the definition of love: the giving up of what is most precious to you for the sake of others.

But – and I want you to hear this - nothing that is done in love is lost.

And there is a reason that I can say that. The one in whose name we meet, the one for whom this church was built, died a few hours after he spoke those words we heard read earlier. He was crucified on the first Good Friday. But he was not simply a victim. He chose to die. He chose, out of love, to give his life for all of us, so that we could be forgiven and put right with God. But that was not the end of the story. Three days later, on the first Easter Sunday, something remarkable happened: God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. He appeared to his followers, he talked with them, he even ate fish with them. Their lives were changed. The history of this world was changed. And he has promised that he will take whoever puts their trust in him – even if they have to go to hell and back - through life and through death, and that whatever happens he will never leave us.

So because of Jesus we know that, in the end, evil and hatred and death do not win. In the end, life and love win.

I know that at the moment Luke’s death still seems unreal, and these words even more unreal. It is a bit like looking at stained glass from the outside of the building: it just looks dark and meaningless. But when we come inside and look out, towards the light, it suddenly is full of colour and makes sense. But please, in the very dark days, when it all seems so empty and dark and meaningless, hold your heads up high. The people of Bury St Edmunds are immensely proud that Luke, your son, your brother, your boyfriend was one of us. We are inspired by him, the service he offered and the sacrifice he made. We honour him. And we are also very aware of and immensely grateful for the sacrifice that you have made.

And we pray that one day, like coming into church and seeing the stained glass window from inside, that one day the light of God will shine through for you in your darkness, that you will know his hope, and you will know that nothing that is done in love will be lost.

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