Sermon Preached by Rev. Louis Hurst – at Derrick’s Funeral

Father Louis Hurst preach a thoughtful sermon at the funeral service of a young man who the church adopted after his mother, a street vendor, died. His home situation was further compounded when fire destroyed all his belongings.  I was personally moved by the genuine care demonstrated by the congregation. KPC may not be bursting with an overflow of worshippers on a Sunday morning but their witness to the vendors in Parade and the City as a whole is something that we can be proud of.
+Robert Thompson
Bishop of Kingston

The Sermon

The difficulty I have preaching at Derricks funeral today is the fact that  I  may have to address many of his youthful friends who are having difficulty in coming to terms with one of their own dying.   Let’s face it  dying  is  usually  reserved  for  old  people  and those who live by the  gun or get mixed up  with the  gun culture. Young  men like  Derrick is  not expected  to  get  sick and ‘drop out’……

But  here  we  are  at his  funeral.  And   it  is a  reminder that none  of  us  are  immune to  death.

This  creates a  level  of  uncertainty.

It  would  be  easy to blame Derrick,  say  that  he  did  something  wrong, which  led up  to  his  death  and  certainly  Derrick did not  see himself as  any saint,  he  struggled with growing  up  as  a young  man  in the  down town community , he  struggled  with  disappointing  those  who cared  for  him, but  Derrick  was  far  from  being a bad  person.  O He  had the   bad  habit of  waking  up  late,  leaving  a  mess  in the kitchen, failing  to tidy up  his  room,  sneaking  a smoke  now and then, and  occasionally  losing his temper, especially at  football matches,….. but  so  do  many  young  men and women.

And even  if  he  had  bad  habits  he  certainly had  more  than  enough  good  ones to  out  weigh them.

He  was  generous  and kind, always willing to  share the  little  he  had. –   I never  saw  him  being  mean  to  another person. 

He  was often willing: and helpful…. weather it  was  baby sitting, running errands  or  just  doing  what  was  asked  of him … He  hardly  ever  said  no, to a  request.

But  perhaps  his  greatest  qualities were that  he  was  resilient-  hetook  hardship in his  stride, rarely  complained, did  not  hold  a  grudge  never was   bitter.

And  he  was gifted.  He  was  musician.  and  he  was a   showman …We  will always picture him  alive, animated and  playing his pan  with  his usual wide grin.

 Derrick  loved  his  family. His late mother, his  sisters  and  his  brothers.

But  he  also  found  a family here  among  the  members  of  the  Parish  Church.  In fact  much  of  his  life  was  centered  around  life  and  witness withn  the  church.  He  would  assist in the  setting  up for  worship and   events. And  though  he like  many  struggled  to  understand  his  faith  in God  and felt  at  times that  he had failed in living as a christian,  he would regularly  receive  the  Holy  Communion – the  body and  blood  of  Christ. Like  all families  we  had our quarrels,  there were times when we  did not  see eye to  eye  on everything. But He loved  and  cared for us  and  we  loved and  cared  for  him.  

Weekly  at the  Eucharist  and  he  would offer  his  gifts  and  talents to the worship. Of  God.  In fact it  was  his  joy  to  make  an  offering of  his  music. I  dont know whether  he  understood  and  grasped  the  fact that he  was like  the  widow  who  gave  her  mite, and  that  he  too was  offering  to  his  God his  all,  everything  he  had  to  give…..I  believe Christ  would  be  well pleased.

We can definitely say music was  Derricks  life…

Bob  Marley  says  “one  good  thing about  Music  when it  hits  you, you  feel no  pain”.  And  for  Derrick  I believe  Music  was  his  escape  from  all the  harsh  realities of  the world  he  lived  in.  It  became his  solace.  In  his  music   he  could say what he  could  not  say  with  words, with  music he  could  be  eloquent,  dream  of  achieving  greatness.  “Music  and  Rhythm  always finds their way  into  the  secret  places of  our  souls” – Plato – And  in  his  love  for  music Derrick  found  much  to  comfort  him. You   often  saw  him  picking out  tunes  at the  key  board or on the  piano for he  quickly learnt to  pick out  the  tunes  by  ear…and  he  would  memorize  the notes.  He also learnt to  play  the  drums   and the  violin, and for  a while played  with the  Jamaica  Orchestra for  youth. 

His  passion however was for the  steel pan . Here  Derrick  knew  he  had  mastery…. He  might  have  to  beg  to  get  a chance  to  play on the  football team,  he  might  worry about the future, have trouble with school work, getting  a job,  he  might  worry  about  his  size ,  or  whether  he  would  get the  girl  but  when  it  came  to  the  pans  he  knew  he was a force  to  be  reckoned  with.

He  was an integral  part of  the  Musical  Apostles and  Derrick  saw  himself  as  the lead  player  and Mr. McBean’s ( Musical Director)  right  hand. something  the  others  would  not entirely  agree with.

And it  grieved him when the  older members  of the  band  dropped out,   he tried  to  get them  back. When  the  new  band  started  he often would offer help to the  new  members of  the  band for he  dreamed  of  it  rising  again.

How  do  we now  say  goodbye.

…for music  comes  to an  end and  the sound disappears.

And  yet any  musician  worth  their  salt will tell you  that silences  and  rest  are  an  integral part  of  making  music.

The  fact that his  pan is  silenced is  by  far  not the  end,  the  music  continues.

For  what  we  have  come  to celebrate  today is an  empty  grave.

I  draw your  attention  to  John Gospel 20  to  the  silence  of  the  early morning  as  a woman  arrives at   a  tomb  to  visit  the  one  who represented music  in her  life.  As  she  came  to our  Lord’s  grave she saw  the stone  rolled back, and  an  empty tomb.  For  Mary and  the  disciples  which  came after,   at  first there  is  shock, confusion….. and as  she  stood  crying   she  heard  that  voice which had  so  often  spoken  to  her. It  took  her  some time  but  she  soon recognized it  as  that of  Her  shepherd  Jesus There is much in  the  gospels about  Jesus using his voice.  It can  heal the  sick, tell  wonderful  stories  which  can  teach  us, wake the dead, cause  soldiers to  fall back in terror.

 It  was  this  same voice  which Mary heard,  which  the  disciples of  Emmaus  recognized  as  there hearts  burned within  as  he  spoke.

And it  was  this  same  voice which Mary now  heard  and  with  this  voice  came  the realization that  

“Nothing not  even death  can separate us  from  Gods love. Revealed in  Jesus Christ our Lord”.

One  of  our  young  steel  band  members  asked  me  whether  Derrick  knew  at that  moment  that  he  was  dying? Maybe  the  question  should  be  did Derrick  here his  shepherds  voice, calling  him  to  come.

One  of  the  hymns  the  steel pan  often  played  at  Mass is  Father  Richard  Ho Lungs  hymns  Father  lord   we  offer you  our  daily life……. father  take  this  love  I  offer  you…. But  the  refrain  goes on  to say : and  I  know  that  we  will rise  again, again  and  I know  we  will die  and  rise  again.  for  I   know  he  is  the  living   yeast of life and  I know  that  he  will rise  again.

That  is what  we  celebrate  today -an  empty  grave.   The  fact that Christ  made  a promise that if  we  believe  and  trust  in  him,  call upon  him  he  will raise us  up  with him. For  salvation is not  earned  by  you  mastering  the  art of  faith  but is a matter  of grace.

Amazing Grace….it is what saves us  help us  to  comprehend  the   miracle of Gods mercy

We all have our  memories,  which we bring today.

For  Derrick  the  music  does  not  stop.  It  is now richer,  more  complete

For  if  we  believe  that  Christ offers  us  the  gift of  eternal  life  by  grace then  the music we make on earth – is only in  in anticipation  of  music  which is never ending,  that flows out  forever . The music of  worship around the  throne of  God   the sound of praise  the eternal alleluia.

Rest in  Peace  brother  Derrick and  keep playing your  music.