Spiritual Coaching Vol 3 #6 New Life… www.dennymeyer.me
As many of you know I’m a pastor and I have a funeral today for a friend and former mayor of LaPorte, In. I thought as my entry for today I would share my notes. I don’t really print out an entire text so I will try to capture what I’m saying as best as I can. Here is to Carl and Vi – you are loved.
Vi – to you, your family and friends who join you today, God’s grace mercy and peace be with you.
Carl was a friend as well as a member of the Bethany family – and a vital part of our community. He will be missed – but today we celebrate his life. We celebrate not merely because of who he was or what he did – we celebrate because of what he points us towards – his Lord and savior Jesus Christ. As Vi and the kids have said to me numerous times his seminary training was always at the core of his being. He looked at life theologically and not just parentally, historically, politically, or economically. He took a deeper view of people, creation, the church, and the world – it was a theological view. He was not just a citizen of LaPorte or Indiana or the United States, He was a citizen of the Kingdom of God. He was not just a partisan political person – he saw service as the core of Jesus teaching.
Jesus reminds us, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Public service was something very important to Carl and imbedded in public service was a vocation that served his Creator. The love of family, love of art, love of things that make a community a community meant something to him. As Isaiah said, “I have called you from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant.’ For I have chosen you.”
Carl was a baptized child of God, and as St Paul wrote in the second reading: “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Carl was confirmed on March 29, 1942, he and Vi were married on April 6, 1951. But obituaries and eulogies can’t contain all the memories or remembrances of beloved children, grandchildren, or friends – near and far.
The kids and friends shared a few memories with me. Jenni wrote, “When I close my eyes, I can still see Dad enveloped in the halo caused by the bbq pit lights at night with the smoke – and smell the of the roast”
Carol Kemp remembered the pig roasts at the house – her parents were friends with Vi and Carl. “There were lots of people and lots of fun,” she said. She remembered how they would take all day beginning with a proper Bloody Mary (maybe a few).
There were stories about chopping down Betty Lou’s banana tree (not at all like George Washington chopping down a cherry tree). Mindy shared how Carl loved words and language and was an avid reader. He loved to travel and enjoyed the world of art and nature. He loved home too, and she remembered the Advent devotions he would read as everyone sat around the dinner table. And then there was the cloudless starry winter night that she and her dad went cross country skiing – just the two of them. All the kids talked about how he held his grandchildren up to touch a hanging mobile at the house.
Karla shared, “Carl knew and loved God. He was ready to go and live in heaven. Today I’m remembering him as a young man full of strength, vigor, and the will to take on the world. He was a demanding father, doting grandfather, and finally a man of such sweetness.”
I know in my case, Carl would sometimes come in to chat in my study. He would just call up and say, “Pastor could I come in for a few minutes?” There would always be a topic or a decision he was mulling over but we’d end up talking about so many different things. I don’t know if they have barbeques in heaven, but I do know what Jesus said in the Gospel of John. Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
There are so many things that I could add today but I want us to think about our life and our legacy for a moment. Jesus said, “And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” We do not know how many days we have on this earth – few or many – we can’t predict. I do know that God loves you – and God wants you with him. I do not know the why’s of this life but I do know the WHO – the Who – is Christ – “I will raise them up,” Jesus says. Carl, you, me – resurrected like him.
So THIS life matters, it’s kind of a pre-school of eternity. We learn here what faith is all about – life is not so much what we DO – as it is about WHO we LEARN TO TRUST. We risk to live and love with grace, mercy, and forgiveness. When we are his we live in this world but also in a kingdom of grace. It’s not a Downton Abbey of haves and have nots. But a kingdom where the servants are first – where giving matters more than getting.
The last hours of Carl’s life he was surrounded by a family who loved him, I got to serenade him with a German lullaby, and shortly after he slipped into the eternal. The words of Martin Luther that will close this service are very much a part of his belief and trust – “Ein Feste Burg” – “A Mighty Fortress” is our God – based on Psalm 46.
May the peace and strength of God be with you – celebrate – remember – give thanks.
Be Well – ‘Till we meet again, Carl.