Below is the sermon delivered by Metropolitan Methodios at the funeral of firefighter James Rice on December 30, 2011. Video of the funeral may be found here. May his memory be eternal.
May I begin by acknowledging and thanking the hundreds of brethren that are attending the funeral service this morning in this church and the thousands that have lined the streets of this city these past days to pay their respects and honor Jim.
I thank His Excellency Bishop Uglietto and Father John MacGinnis, the pastor of this community, and thank them for extending their welcome to the Saint Vasilios Greek Orthodox Community. I thank the firefighters and policemen of Peabody and throughout the Commonwealth and from neighboring states that are in attendance. I am grateful to our governor and all officials of the Commonwealth together with the mayor in Peabody who have come to honor the memory of a man loved by all.
We gather today to pray that Almighty God may open His arms and welcome into His loving embrace a man respected and befriended by everyone. We offer our sympathies to his beloved family – his parents, his loving wife Amy and his three precious children, Katelyn, Alyssa and Ryan.
The Church and the streets of this city are filled with Jim’s colleagues and friends from the Peabody Fire Department who mourn the passing of a man of character and courage, of inner strength and ethos who earned their friendship and admiration.
Last Friday when I learned the tragic news, I recalled what our Lord and Savior taught His Disciples. He told them that “greater love hath no man than this, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That truth, treasured in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John, was surely etched upon the heart and soul of Jim Rice.
On December 23 he and his fellow firefighters rushed into a burning building to save the endangered lives of the residents. In the line of duty, James was ready to even lay down his life – (if need be) – to save, his friends. Yes his friends! The residents of that building on Hancock Street were Jim’s friends, even though he may never have met them. They were God’s children. They were Jim’s brothers and sisters in the household of God.
What Jim did last Friday was heroic – but I’m sure he would say that he and his fellow firemen were only doing what they loved to do, to be firefighters – to serve the public – to save lives. To be a firefighter or a policeman is not a job, it’s a vocation. It’s a calling. It’s a special life lived by very special people.
In a generation that has come to be known as the ME generation, when many of us selfishly think only of our selves… in an age of entitlement – when many of us feel we are entitled to what we have or what we can get from others (including our government)… In times such as these, I thank God for men like Jim Rice and men and women like him that have character, ethos, courage and inner strength that help make the world a better place.
Every day as they leave their homes to go to work, firemen and policemen know in their hearts that it could very well be the day that they may be called to prove, “greater love hath no man than this – to lay down his life for his friends.” For Jim Rice that day was December 23, 2011.
Let us join in prayer that our Benevolent Lord grant eternal rest to this beloved son, this dedicated and loving husband, this adoring father, this respected and revered colleague and friend.