The Very Reverend Boak Jobbins, Dean of Sydney, St Andrews Anglican Cathedral
MICHAEL KELLAND HUTCHENCE
We are here as people whose lives have been touched by Michael Hutchence – some of us remotely, some of us in the closeness of family life and friendship. We are here in a Christian Cathedral, brought face to face with death, an untimely death, a death that did not come in the way we expect or believe that death should come. What do you do in the face of death?
1. Be Thankful
All of us here have memories, recollections of Michael; some of them are longstanding, from the intimacy of family life; for others they are more recent, from the circles of friendship, members of the band, professional colleagues, fans. We are grateful to those who have already spoken for bringing these memories to our minds.
What we must do is to take the opportunity to thank God for the person whose life we shared and who made these memories possible:
Michael, the loyal son and brother who always kept in touch;
Michael, the devoted partner, thrilled at being a father;
Michael, to those who knew him closely, the gentle and generous one;
Michael, who shared his time and talents with charities for the wellbeing of others;
Michael, who brought joy and delight to millions.
2. Be Human
Someone you loved is dead, and you will not see him, someone you counted on is gone, and he won’t be there; someone who was your rock is no more. And in that, there is pain, loss, hurt: and it must be.
The pain, the loss, the hurt are made worse by the suggestion that this was a death of despair: what was it about his life- its circumstances, its nature, its pressures – that it could be beyond bearing?
Funerals bring us face to face with questions like that. They are one of the few opportunities we have to share our humanness with each other – our pain, our loss, our questions, our despair. With a word, a touch, an act of kindness to say “I hurt and I know you hurt – I feel for you – I so wish it were otherwise”.
So often, we don’t say those things to each other, perhaps because we’re busy, or embarrassed or afraid, afraid we’ll say the wrong thing, afraid we won’t say the right or clever thing.
There is no right thing, no clever thing to say: nothing we say will change death or change the pain of grief today. There is simply the opportunity to stand with other human beings and identify with them in their grief. Our presence, our fumbled words, our practical helps, all of them ways of being human, all of them ways of seeking to comfort and support each other.
3. Be Realistic
None of us likes occasions like this: I don’t like them, and you don’t like them. The great temptation is to make believe, to get caught up in the planning and excitement of a large gathering like this, to be preoccupied with yet another picture, yet another rumour to be distracted, to pretend, somehow to try to rob the event of its starkness and its reality.
But death is real – Michael’s death is real – and death waits for each one of us. It is a sinister figure in black, patiently waiting, knowing that in time each of us will meet him. The lives of all of us run their course and finish, sooner or later, suddenly or in the fullness of time.
Over against that, there is a magnificent truth: God hates death. God hates death so much that, in his extravagant love, he surrendered what matters most to him – his own Son – to deal with it: death will not hold sway forever; the time will come when God will end death for his people. For those who are God’s friends, for those who are on God’s side, for those who hope for the present and the future is not in themselves but in Jesus who endured death in their place, for them God has smashed the power of death and gives them life forever.
That is what I mean by “be realistic”. Death cannot be avoided: but it can be transformed.
Human beings have experienced the mystery of death, and the pain of grief, since time immemorial. Every society has developed rites to mark the passage from life through death, and to commemorate the dead. Today we do that through this service. The wounds of grief need time and care to heal. The service may help this process, by enabling us to acknowledge our loss, give thanks for the life of Michael, make our last farewell, and begin to take up life once more. Christians believe in God, the source and giver of life. God’s good news proclaims Jesus Christ to be our living Lord, who laid down his life for us. He knew death, yet triumphed over it, drawing its sting, and was raised by God to new life. Christians affirm the presence of the Spirit of Christ, who helps us in our weakness. Yet we, with all mortals, still face death. Those who put their trust in Christ share the sufferings of their Lord, even in the midst of God’s love and care. In this service, we proclaim the Christian hope in the face of death – Jesus Christ, whose resurrection is the promise of our own.