Sermon preached at the funeral of William Meaklim in 2nd Newtownhamilton Presbyterian Church on Monday, 18th August, 1975 by Rev. Russell Birney (Minister in Charge).
TWENTY - NINE YEARS AGO this Wednesday, in a farm in Co. Monaghan, William Meaklim was born. There was nothing extraordinary about his birth or significance in the fact that he was the third child of his parents. There was nothing extraordinary about his life either, which would distinguish him from other young men of his generation, except, that is, to those who were closest to him. To them he was extra special, a loving husband, a good son, a faithful brother and a loyal friend. By the normal course of events and in peaceful days he might have expected a long life of happiness. But events are not normal and days are not peaceful and on Friday night in a lonely country lane, separated from his loved ones, William was cruelly and brutally murdered. In a moment of time a young life was senselessly extinguished.
It is difficult to find words to express our thoughts but let God speak to the murderers, in the words spoken to Cain after he had killed his brother Abel.
"What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground". (Gen. 4:10).
The voice to-day cries:
1. For Explanation. What possible rational explanation can there be for taking a young man in the prime of life and killing him in a way that would cause normal people revulsion? What possible ideal is being served in taking a fellow-Irishman whose only crime, it seems, in the absence of any other explanation, was that he was born into a different religion, and to cruelly starve, beat and finally to cowardly riddle his body to death? What kind of men, if men they can be called, are they who could treat a fellow - human being and a brother as they did? For William Meaklim was their brother, belonging as we all do, irrespective of our religious label, to the family of mankind, sharing a common humanity. These men have, however, by their action, denied that humanity and in their crime have made their cliches, statements, and posturings a travesty of language and meaning. They have dragged the ideal they profess through the mud, destroying its credibility in the eyes of generations of fellow countrymen.
The voice calls:
2. For Satisfaction. This is a time of trial of Newtownhamilton. Bombs, bullets and intimidation have all failed to set the people against each other. Nothing must be allowed to destroy the good relationships which exist here. The grisly game of tit-for-tat which characterises other parts of our province must not be played in this town and district. It is sometimes forgotten and we have been reminded forcibly by others this week-end, that there is a God, who is the Living God and it is He with whom every man will have to do.
"Vengeance is mine and I will repay", said the Lord.
In this country God is allowing the drama to unfold but one day perhaps sooner than we think, he will intervene and bring down the curtain. For He will surely say "Thus far and no further". It is not for us, despite the desperate provocation, to take revenge. It is not for us to act as God. It is a divine prerogative to give life and to take life and all who usurp that role will pay eternally for it. Do not the Scriptures say: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God", and again: "All murderers shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstones".
These men will move about, unknown and unnoticed by some, praised and commended by others, who by consenting to their deed and by their silence share in it, but who though they avoid it for many a day, will sooner or later, in this world or the next, be confronted with their deed, by the Living God, who will ask: "What have you done".
Tomorrow William Meaklim will be another statistic, but not for those who are left behind and in whose hearts he will have a lasting memorial. Elma, his brave young wife, who loved him and who waited for him to return right to the end. His mother, widowed when he was only ten years old, who had a hard struggle to bring up her children and who depended so much on him. His brother and colleagues who knew him in whatever capacity. They will never forget him. Nor is he forgotten by Christ who, I believe, has a special love for William at this time. For did they not fasten His hands, abuse, pierce and finally murder Him too? Can we hear the Father in Heaven as he looked upon His beloved Son and asked as surely He must have asked those who had committed the deed: "What have you done?" Can we hear Christ as He replies and may we be given the grace to reply with Him: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". And the God who sustained His loved ones and who raised His Son from the dead will sustain us and raise us up with our loved ones in the Lord to spend eternity with Him.
This is the fourth time that this little Church has received the remains of its sons and daughters the victims of terrorism. It is another reminder to each of us of the brevity of life. There is no-one here this afternoon who can say with certainty that he will not be the next. Are you ready for that day? Are you linked by faith with Jesus Christ who by his death and resurrection has destroyed the power of sin and the grave? Are you ready to meet Him?
May each of us as a result of this tragic event be brought to the place where we can each say with the Apostle Paul:
"I know in whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day".
26 years on from this funeral memories of William's death return to me. He lived two doors away from us in Newtownhamilton and his murder took place a week before that of my father. It is with deep sadness and regret that I remember the words of politicians, the NIO and the Chief of Police, who spoke about leaving no stone unturned to get these men brought to justice. May God forgive us for being so naive, for 26 years later we have terrorists in government who were responsible for these deaths, and we still hear the same empty rhetoric about terrorist attacks.
HELP US TELL THE TRUTH