Thursday, 22 March 2012

Serving the Light: A Funeral Sermon for Bobby (Tweeds) Riddell—Cinematographer and Friend

I formatted Bobby's service as if it was a script for a television production. Here is the sermon that went with it. 

Light in our darkness. First, let me throw some light on why I’m standing here today. It began in the VideoPack days in the early 80s. Bob was “Tweeds,” the shooter; Darryl was “Shirt,” the sound guy and I was the director, “Vince,” “Vince Vaselini” in full because of my admiration for Franco Zeffirelli. It sounded Italian, I guess. I was the guy who drove the van while Tweeds and Shirt were toking up and drinking wine in the back. Here I am again, driving this “van.” Not that I’m suggesting that Tweeds is up to anything untoward, besides I can see Shirt out there. 

Light in our darkness. I remember Tweeds telling me often, “I love to light.” And so he did. He loved it when we could afford lots of lights. Big ones. He was an artist with light. He made things look good. The purpose of Bobby's lighting artistry and his exposure and framing skills was always to tell a story. It was never to attract attention to himself and what he was doing, at least it wasn’t supposed to be—although colleagues and those in the know might notice and admire—it was always to get the story told as compellingly and evocatively as possible. After the script, light was all. It is by light the story unfolds as we see the characters and the action in their setting. I loved working with Tweeds.

Now I work for someone who is also associated with light. Someone who called himself “the light of the world!” (John 8:12) in fact. When people encounter him they often describe the experience by saying, “I saw the light!” His name is Jesus, in whose face, the Bible tells us, is found “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” (2 Cor 4:6) An amazing claim but enough, along with some other things, to cause me to change from story-telling in glowing phosphors using images lit by people like Tweeds, to telling and doing my best to draw attention to a story of another kind. One lit by a light so lovely and powerful that it creates a kind of everlasting, divine Magic Hour even on days like this. A story told by Jesus Christ himself, a master story teller in his own right. 

The script for that story, of course, is the Bible. It is a story shot through with light. The very first thing God said in the whole Bible, just three verses in, was, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good." A verse for Bobby Riddell if there ever were and to warm the cockles of his heart, don't you think? I wonder if he realized. 

"Light is sweet," (Ecc 11:7) wrote King Solomon, the writer of our first reading from Ecclesiastes a few chapters later. And so it is. And so it was for Tweeds. And so was he; as Don said, a gentleman. 

Yet, even though light is good and sweet, days like this remind us that good lighting always involves shadows and darkness. It’s where we get the drama and the modelling. It’s how we see the textures, the rough and the smooth. It has to be dark to see the stars. 

Which brings me to the bits of the Bible story we heard earlier. “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.”

There was a time for Bobby to be born, and there’s not a person in the room who isn’t glad of that. But what came with it is that there was also a time for him to die. That’s sad and dark and too early for us. But it’s real and it’s true and we have to deal with it. So now we have a time to gather some clips together to enjoy some of his work, to harvest some memories, to lose and to be real about it, to hate what has happened, to cry and to laugh, to grieve and to embrace as we comfort one another in our love for Bobby.
Soon will come a time for us all to keep our good memories, to heal and  mend as we move on in our lives. Not easy, especially for Marilyn, Marilyn, Rich, Rob, Peter and Minin.

Which brings me to my boss, Jesus, and what he said in the second reading from John as he tried to prepare the guys he loved for the grief and confusion he knew was coming. 
Don’t be troubled, Trust in God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know where I am going and how to get there. 
"No, we don't know, Lord," Thomas said. "We haven't any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (John 14:1-5)
I’ve been there with Thomas. We all have. Especially at times like this. We’re numb, like Tony Wade said on Facebook yesterday. We’re not thinking straight. We haven’t any idea where Bob has gone. We just don’t know. To which Jesus replies:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
And here we come to the big question: when this time and season comes for us all, is it a fade to black, or to light? 

I believe there is a way to get out of this alive. And Jesus provides it. I am The Way, follow my example—Jesus provides the shot list. I am The Truth. Learn about that truth in the Scriptures—read the script. I am The Life. My heart now beats in my body on earth, the Church—which is like a huge, unweildly production in progress, cast and crew, call lists and all—far from perfect—people forget their lines, they’re late for their calls, shots lose focus, there’s dust in the gate, the director thinks he’s God, the stars think they’re God’s gift to us all, the shooters are zoom-happy and they don’t use the sticks enough. 
Yet that’s where Jesus has chosen to live out his life in this particular time and season in the earth’s history. And every now and then, there’s magic—you know what I mean—the shot that pops and sings. 

The Church shoot needs steady guys like Tweeds and people like you and me. And, we need it, even with all its warts and imperfections, more than we know. We need to learn his lines, the ones he wrote for us and which will not only enable us to treat one another in the best possible way, but will also lead to a happy Magic Hour ending. 

So consider joining the shoot. To do so would be another good way to honour our beloved Bobby.