Daniel Shrimpton’s funeral

Good Shepherd lost sheep Bible Reading: St Luke’s gospel, Chapter 15, verses 1-7.

The lost sheep in the story from the beginning of Luke’s gospel chapter 15, needed rescue. In the next story that Jesus told, a woman had broken her necklace, made of gold coins, her entire personal wealth, and one had broken off and was lost – then she finds it. The last story in chapter 15 of Luke is about two sons, usually called the parable of the Prodigal Son.

He needed rescue. He had lost half of the family fortune, Jesus describes him as someone who lived recklessly, squandering everything. He had ended up literally, in the gutter. But he had lost something more valuable than money and things, he had lost respect – not only of his family but the whole community. Yet the prodigal was restored, by the all-embracing love of his father. There is a famous painting by the Dutch painter Rembrandt, where the old father welcomes back his lost son. But, in the shadows, is the figure of his brother, the one who could not bring himself to forgive his younger sibling.

The three stories, or parables, are all about the cost of putting things right. There is great importance in the introduction to the three stories that we began with: the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled together about Jesus saying (or should it be hissing?): “This man receives sinners, and eats with them.” We must be very careful not to stand with them, or with the second brother at the end of the prodigal son story.

When I read to you the story of the lost sheep, you may have wondered if I was referring to Dan. I was, and – every bit as much, to all of us. According to Jesus, without the power that comes from Him, to forgive and to be forgiven, we are all lost, seriously lost, however successful our lives may be in human terms. I tried to get that across to Dan, and to his brother David, in the meals we shared together, most weeks, in the Morden Parish Hall Community. Sometimes others from St Lawrence joined us, others who knew that we are lost, unforgiven without Jesus having died for us, breaking death’s power, when he rose from the dead.

More and more funerals these days in this country, are not Christian funerals. Jesus is cut out of the picture, relegated to a world of fairy stories, made up for children, but ignored by the western world. Let me say simply, that the Gospels are the most reliable, true documents ever written. But these days at funerals, a lot is said about how wonderful the dead person was, but only smooth, empty words are said about death. They are in the end, meaningless, and worse than no help to those who mourn the dead person’s passing.

I owe it to Dan, to his son 3-year old Max as he grows up, to Shai who Dan loved most dearly, to the one that we pray will be born safely and well in three months time, and to the two families who have invited me to take this service, I owe it to all of you to put Jesus at the heart of this service. Only through Jesus can true forgiveness be found. that gives us the ability to live deep and meaningful lives, however long, or short. Remember how 100 years ago, so many men and boys were dying from this country, and in the wars that rage today in other parts of the world, so much suffering and death, experienced especially by children.

God in Christ offers a better way, a way that leads to life with him, forever. We don’t, we can’t forgive, on our own. But as we pray now the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s Prayer, we celebrate that God first loved us – in Jesus, when as a real human being, he taught, he lived, he died, and rose again, to prove that Love, in Him, does not die. Dan, I look forward to sharing with you, and Shai and the children, your families, in the great banquet in Heaven, because of Jesus.