Have been reading a lot recently of Jade Goody and the sermon that was preached at her funeral. Thought it would be appropiate today as we remember Jesus’ death on the cross to post that sermon here. What an amazing hope we can have if we trust in Jesus because of what he did on the cross though we didn’t deserve it in any way.
We don’t expect, do we, to be celebrating a wedding and then to be saying farewell to the bride just six weeks later. We don’t expect to have to bury our children, whatever age they are. We don’t expect those who are so young, and so full of life and love to be taken from us.
And yet that is life – that is the reality we face today.
Reality’s a word that’s often been linked to Jade: a star, possibly the greatest star of what we call reality TV. But we know, don’t we, that her life was far from free of some of the harsher realities of life. She had her fair share, possibly more than her fair share of life’s hardships.
But as we’ve seen, particularly over the past months, she’s inspired so many with her courage in fighting cancer and her dignity in facing death.
And yet we still don’t expect to find ourselves here today.
And maybe there’s one more thing we don’t expect to find as we come to bury this vibrant 27 year old mother, daughter, wife and friend – HOPE. Even when we’re faced with the harsh reality of death, hope is what is offered by the Christian faith, the Christian faith into which Jade herself was baptised just four weeks ago today. And that hope is not found in the rules or rituals of an ancient religion, but in a living person, Jesus Christ, whose name Jade wasn’t afraid to take on her lips: not as a swear word but as the name of the person she wanted Bobby & Freddy to get to know for themselves.
I know that Jade liked reading the gospel of Luke in the New Testament. Why not read it for yourselves? It’s interesting that Jade liked Luke’s gospel in particular as it’s the one that highlights God’s love for unlikely people. She will have read there, in Luke’s gospel, how Jesus welcomed those who weren’t particularly religious, and how Jesus spent time with people like herself: down to earth people whose lives, like Jade’s, were at times flawed and difficult, but whose lives were precious to God. And she will have read there, in Luke’s gospel of Jesus bringing the hope that we all need.
Jade discovered that turning to Jesus brought comfort and peace for herself and her children.
She discovered it late on, but she discovered it in time. Why not discover it for yourselves now?
You see, we don’t have all the answers to our questions of suffering and pain. But we do have Jesus who shares what we’re going through, and who shows infinite compassion and care. We don’t have the guarantee of a pain-free life, but we do have Jesus, who can walk with us through illness, grief and everything else life may throw at us. We don’t have a way of finally escaping death, but we do have Jesus, who died for us and then defeated death itself at Easter, giving us hope of life beyond the grave.
And that life is not just a continuation of what we have now, but a life that is finally free from sickness, from pain, from grief, and from all that spoils our lives and our world here. How true are Jade’s words that heaven is a place where sick people go to be made well, because heaven is where we finally meet face to face Jesus, the greatest healer of all, who alone is able to make our broken lives whole.
Jade’s baptism symbolised that she had made a choice, a choice that we can – that we must – all make: to trust in the Jesus that we find, not only in Luke’s gospel, but in the whole of the Bible.
I had the privilege last week of being able to see the Bible Jade read from. Here it is, and here is possibly the most significant thing about it. She’s underlined one chapter more fully than any other. It’s one of the most momentous passages of the whole Bible. And it’s actually in the Old Testament, in a book of the Bible called Isaiah and chapter 53. The words were written 700 years before Jesus, but speak of him and describe exactly what He came to do. They’re words that lie at the heart of the Christian faith and describe the events of Good Friday that Christians will remember this coming week. Here are some of the words that Jade underlined:
“All of us were like sheep that were lost,
Each of us going his own way.
But the Lord made the punishment fall on him,
The punishment all of us deserve”
These words explain that it is possible to be confident about heaven, even though our lives are flawed. You see none of us – not you, not me, not Jade – can stand before a holy God with lives free from mistakes, from faults, from things that we regret. As these verses that Jade has unlined tell us, we don’t have perfect lives. But we do have Jesus, who opened heaven’s doors: not for great achievers, not for those who think they are better than others, but for people like Jade, who simply reach out to Jesus and trust in him, even when all else seems hopeless.
To me, the fact these verses are underlined means that Jade understood this incredible good news about Jesus. It means that Jade has only completed the first chapter of a life that continues in his loving presence. It means that when the last column inches have been written about Jade’s unforgettable life, then that in no way is the end of her story.
Praise God that this is not the end of any of our stories!