ID: RHW_003 / Joe Haward

TitleRichard Haward - Sermon by his son Joe
AbstractI thought I would share my sermon from my father's funeral on Wednesday 18th October 2023:

"A reading from John's Gospel: "Thereafter Jesus again manifested himself to the disciples on the Sea of Tiberias; and this was the manner in which he manifested himself: Simon Peter, and Thomas (which means "Twin"), and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples were together. Simon Peter says to them, "I am going to fish." They say to him, "We are coming with you as well." They went out and embarked in the boat, and they caught nothing during the night. But now, as it was becoming early morning, Jesus stood on the shore; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus says to them, "Little children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No ." So he said to them, "Cast the net out on the starboard side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it out, and they were no longer able to haul it in on account of the great number of fish."

Death is an assault upon all that we are, the grief it leaves us stinging both our hearts and eyes. When the apostle Paul says, "Where O death is your sting?" we feel like saying, "Right here, Paul" Our lives feel somehow shallower when someone we !ove dies, and there are moments where we fear the crashing waves of pain from their loss might completely swallow us within its depths. It is as though we are standing in our life's boat, holding a net that represents all that this person was to us, pulling it aboard, yet now it feels empty, as though in death all that they were - all that my Dad was - has been lost. We drift upon the sea of our suffering, death's mist hiding the horizon from us, and we wonder what any of this even means.

But then we hear a voice. It is a voice that echoes out across the waves of our sorrow, and we see that Jesus stands upon the shore of our grief, calling to us. "Don't be afraid, I am with you. Cast your nets on the other side."

We take our net, a symbol of everything someone has meant us, and we cast it over the other side of life's boat. And what do we find? An abundance of memories. Here in this place as family, friends, and strangers, we are bound together in our shared memories, and there is a net full of memories that bind us together in our grief and hope. Yes, my Dad has died, but as we cast our net over the other side of the boat, we find that all that my Dad was has not died because it continues through you. Our lives are but memories and moments, and these memories ensure someone's life continues through us, their memory and legacy reverberating off the walls of our hearts, echoing out through time and space, like a breath, a whisper, upon our souls. Not only that, but in death God will never abandon us, but calls us by name, speaking eternal life and infinite hope. That voice from the shore speaks hope over us.

"Don't be afraid, I am with you. Cast your nets on the other side."

When we pull our nets in, what else do we find? An abundance of love. Death cannot overwhelm love. We are bound together in love, family, friends, strangers, united in common love. God has not abandoned us, has not abandoned you. Yes, there are times when the silence of heaven threatens to deafen us, but love will find a way. Somehow. When our hearts feel empty, Jesus stands on the shore of our heartache, and calls to us, a voice in the wilderness, reverberating across the oceans of human suffering.

"Do not be afraid, I am with you. Cast your nets on the other side."

The midnight of despair will not overcome nor overwhelm us. Hope flickers upon the horizon, pushing back the darkness, breaking out, a daybreak of healing in its wings. The night is darkest just before the dawn, but the dawn is coming. Jesus stands upon the shore of human history, calling us by name, declaring, "My child, do not be afraid, I am with you. Cast your net on the other side."

Biography by Richard's wife Heather

Eulogy by Heather

AuthorJoe Haward
Published18 October 2023
SourceMersea Museum