“Go For It”

Reverend Brent Hawkes led the worship service which was the state funeral for Jack Layton, today.

I don’t know, exactly, what goes into a state funeral – though I do know it involves more nationalism and tax dollars than “regular” funerals.  Either way, it was a lovely memorial to the dynamic leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada – a fitting send-off.

Stephen Lewis and Brent Hawkes, along with Mike and Sarah – Jack’s children – offered words of praise for Layton’s accomplishments as well as words that called people to action: action and activism that would build on Layton’s legacy.

Jack Layton worked for justice and equality, and he did not rest when it came to matters of raising up oppressed people or helping those in impoverished circumstances.  And his work did not stem from a purely egotistical sense of self, but a deeper place of being part of a bigger picture.  Rev. Hawkes spoke of his conversations with Layton, and asking Layton whether it would be okay if he delved into the spiritual, even faith-specific (Christian) language about death at the funeral, and he remembers Layton saying “Go for it.”

Rev. Hawkes said, “It’s not about which spiritual path you choose, it’s about choosing a spiritual path and going deeper and respecting people on various paths. It’s about learning and growing and coming together. And, ultimately, it’s about making the world a better place for those who will come after us.”

Remembering his father, Michael Layton recounts a time when he went sailing with Jack, and the wind died down when they got to the middle of the lake and had to struggle to paddle back to land; his dad’s words: “‘You could wait forever for perfect conditions,’ he said, ‘or you can make the best of what you’ve got.’ That’s what he did every day of his life. He made the most of each moment.”

Stephen Lewis, a leader-politician himself, summed up Layton’s politics (and, arguably, Layton’s theological perspective as well): “if there was one word that might sum up Jack Layton’s unabashed, social democratic message it would be “generosity.” He wanted, in the simplest and most visceral terms, a more generous Canada.”

Layton was a statesman who loved his country and wanted the best for all people in it, as well as in the world.  For us, we are invited to dive into the work of just, compassionate, and generous living – we are invited to “go for it,” and live what we say we believe.

Thanks be to God for the life of Jack Layton.  “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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Posted on August 27, 2011, in Tyler's occasional web log and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Everything was so very moving, so touching. It stirred the “emotions”. It was … hypnotizing. Reverend Brent Hawkes seemed very confident and sincere. He is a very skilled speaker. I believe that spiritually “discerning” individuals in Canada are now on “high alert” after hearing his most eloquent speech.

    And many people who are familiar with those passages from the Bible probably also hope to hear our Master and Lord use His own words “well done good and faithful servant” just before being launched into eternity.

    Matthew 24 and Matthew 25 were passages that I believe Jack Layton probably would have read.
    May we all take a moment of respectful pause in memory of him to read these two chapters from the Bible.
    Thank you for this blog. He that has an ear, let him hear.

    • Thank you for your comment on this blog, Ronda!
      Another piece that stands out for me in the state funeral for Mr Layton was Rev. Hawkes’ recounting of Jack’s own sense of his spirituality and how he lived his Christian faith: “Jack was a spiritual person. He didn’t wear it on his sleeve, but in one of our conversations, he said to me, ‘Brent, I believe how I live my life everyday is my act of worship.’”
      I would always encourage other people who, like me, call themselves Christian to live what they say they believe – that their lives reflect their beliefs, even more than their possible commitment to a church group. (I say that with a modicum of hesitation because my own career, as a pastor, could be on-the-line if there aren’t enough people engaging in a church community to afford my position! However, if we say certain things as Christians, but we do not live those marks of a Christian life – being generous, hospitable, non-vengeful, non-coveting, and observing Sabbath rest, and such – then what is the faith about?)
      I am grateful for the example Jack showed everyone in his living. He was respectful of people and the planet.
      I also admire the fact that he was connected to a community of faith that encouraged deeper thought on how we live what we say we believe.

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