Summary: Funeral sermon for a man who lived an ordinary life, but came to Christ in his final illness. He had no family or close friends and the funeral was paid for by the council.
In every generation of human history there have been a small number of people who achieved fame or greatness. People who were talked about by their contemporaries, who set the agenda and the spirit of the age. An even smaller number of people are remembered by future generations, whose names and deeds live on long after their deaths. They are often referred to as ’history’s greats’. Books are written and films are made about them centuries after their deaths. Their deeds and their memories seem to be immortal, people like Alexander the Great, William Shakespeare and Cleopatra.
We are living in a time when celebrities are feted, when their lives become the centre of attention and all their details are quickly flashed around the world. When thousands and millions aspire to fame.
But there have been far more, millions upon millions more, who never achieved fame. Whose lives were not known beyond a small area and a few friends or family. There is a verse in one of our hymns that states:-
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day
Truly only a few are remembered a hundred years after they died. I wonder how many of today’s celebrities will still be being talked about a hundred years from now.
Indeed, most people live their lives away from fame, their births and their deaths not being particularly reported upon on the TV or in newspapers.
Our friend Mr Williams was one of these people. He never won an Olympic gold medal, or wrote a book or became Prime Minister. He was never a celebrity.
However because of the greatest of history’s greats, I believe he has become immortal. This greatest of history’s great was the greatest because he was God, come as an ordinary human man, who lived the first thirty years of his life in obscurity. We read his words earlier on:-
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he shall die, he shall live.
He did not say that we have to perform great or special acts. He did not say that we have to achieve fame or celebrity status to live on after our deaths. He said that if we trust in him, believe in him, not in our own worthiness, but in his, then we will share in his immortality.
Millions of people through history have done this, only a few of them have been famous in even their own generation, let alone future generations. But the wonderful truth is that Christ never forgets his people, none of them are obscure or insignificant to him.
I only knew Mr Williams for the last few weeks of his life in his final illness, but I believe that he believed and trusted this greatest of history’s greats and that in consequence the promise of eternal life and immortality has been received by him.
Although only a very small number of us are here to mark his passing, although it will not be on the TV news, although Mr Williams’ life will never be the subject of a film, he is not forgotten by God, and will never be, because he is living with him forever. He is an eternal celebrity.