Saturday, May 14, 2011

Some Good Words for my Friend, Who I Didn't Know was a Gardener

(I presided, but did not preach, at a recent funeral.  The other pastor preached.  Instead, I said these words.)

In this world where there is so much loneliness, one of the best gifts God has given us is one another.

What I want to do today, mostly, is tell you a story.  It's a story I didn't know about H and G and this church, until we met with one another on Friday.  But it's story that some of you may know, already.  It's a story about roses, community, and hope.

I will tell you, I thought I knew H pretty well.  After all, I've been your pastor for a few years now.  I knew H and G as a devoted couple, devoted to one another.  When I see H, I often picture him in the church office, eating lunch with his wife, whenever she was working.  Or, I think of him with a stack of bulletins in his hands, sometimes, standing at the back of the church.  Of, I think of him as a man who loved worship, and especially the liturgy.  I knew that he loved his congregation, and had been a leader in many efforts throughout the year, but I didn't know all of the things he had done.  I also knew that he was attentive to the wider church, the work of the church colleges and the synod.  But I didn't know that he was a gardener, and how much he loved roses.  I didn't know that he had such a green thumb.

So, on to the story:  Several years ago, in the fall, H was out in his garden, covering his roses, getting them ready for the winter.  He was working hard when he had a heart attack, what would be his first heart attack, and was taken to the hospital.  But, the work was not finished.  Not all of the roses were covered.

That's where some of you came in, some of his brothers and sisters in Christ from this congregations.  A whole host of you came over and went to work, completing the work that H had started.  You worked side by side, getting the garden ready for the winter, a community of friends on a common mission.  But, I imagine that it was also fun.

In this world where there is so much loneliness, one of the best gifts God has given us is one another.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we grieve together, we rejoice together, we step up for one another.

One of the things I knew about H was that he was hoping and expecting to get back to the work of the congregation, and that he was disappointed when his energy did not return.  I also knew how much he was blessed and honored by the support and presence of his friends in his life.  This congregation was a gift to him -- really both to him and to G.

When you called and left the message in the church office, G, I was expecting to hear you say, "H is in the hospital."  I wasn't expecting to hear you say that he had died.  I always thought that I would a chance to have one more conversation with you both.

The promises of Easter, the promises of eternal life, comfort us today.  But God has given us many gifts today, including the gift of one another, the gift of community.  When Jesus rose, he rose to give us life, and he rose to give us one another --

We are bound together, united by a common hope, by a common mission, by our songs and by our prayers.

And by roses.

We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.

From sorrow, toil, and pain, and sin we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity.  (Blest be the Tie that Binds)

P.S.  at the funeral were several refugees who had been sponsored by this couple throughout the years. I didn't know about them, either.


caasen said...

Great words for a great man of faith!

Diane said...


Jan said...


Terri said...

oh diane, lovely.