I had nearly finished writing this blog and it was going pretty well when I suddenly stopped and thought ‘this isn’t the right subject’. So I deleted it all, sat and stared at a fresh blank page and waited.
This blog is often a spot where I sit and reflect on what’s been going on over the last month in the light of something that I have read recently in the Bible. This month however I want to reflect upon the life of someone else.
Last Friday was the funeral, memorial service and celebration of the life of our beloved vicar and dear friend, the Reverend Bob Yule. Whilst his passing was not a surprise, it was most definitely heart-breaking. However, life in the Kingdom of God is, as we’ve noted before, a contradictory place and as I worshipped by singing and gave thanks through prayer, God challenged me most profoundly. I looked around at the crowd of 1000 people packed into our church to honour the man we all knew as our leader, pastor, mentor, friend and, at the occasional wedding, excellent company with whom to share a jug of Pimms, and something struck me that I want to share with you.
As we walk through the Gospel of Mark together we soon reach Jesus’ teaching on the Parable of the Sower. The farmer sows seed with rather mixed results. Some does well, but most doesn’t even though it looked promising to start with. Having preached up a storm, this happens:
“Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “ ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ ”
I rather picture Jesus at this point turning to look at the disciples in an expectant manner only to be met with blank stares…
“Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”
Jesus patiently explains…
“The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” (Mark 4:9-20 NIV)
Bob Yule was most definitely a seed sown on good soil. It was impossible to look around at the assembled crowd and not beam with pride at how Bob had lived a life worthy of the call he had received in Christ Jesus. And I don’t mean the call to life in the clergy, although he excelled at that, no, I mean the call to be a disciple.
The same call that you and I have received from the lips of the same Risen Saviour.
When I said goodbye to Bob last week there were tears and snot. It wasn’t pretty. But even in that place he was an inspiration to me. An example of a life well lived. Of the impact a faithful disciple can have over the course of a patient lifetime. His ministry was not spectacular. He was not a household name. He just spent 30+ years pursuing God and loving those around him wherever God took him. Giving up his time, opening up his home. Listening, encouraging, praying.
So I know that my friend Bob has now heard those words I long one day to hear from the Father myself…
“Well done my good and faithful servant.”
I want that to be my story and so I’ve changed my daily routine to get up that bit earlier and spend some time each day with my Lord asking him to change me and keep me close to him so that perhaps, eventually, I can have a funeral a bit like Bob’s.
In loving memory of the Reverend Bob Yule. May many follow in your footsteps, so closely behind the One you are now with.