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the sermon for

the Memorial Service for Gerald Vernon Mendenhall

07 January 2015

Psalm 23
Life, especially at times like this, is not a "me" thing,
but an "us" one!

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.

The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.

You restore my soul, O LORD, and guide me along right pathways...

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil...

Over the years, I have no idea how many times, I've read those words. Always, it seems, at times like this. Yet, the amazing thing is how each and every time I read them, something new and different comes from the old and familiar. This time, the psalm conjured up a quote by Martin Luther. "Everyone must do two things alone," he wrote, "They must do their own believing and their own dying." "Everyone must do two things alone... believe... and die..."

I think it was because of all the "I"s and "me"s and "my"s. "The LORD is MY shepherd; I shall not be in want... The LORD makes ME lie down and leads ME beside still waters. You restore MY soul, O LORD, and guide ME... Though I walk, I shall not fear..." It's all first person! It's all singular! And at first glance, at least on the surface, it's sounds a whole lot like the good doctor! "Everyone must do two things alone; they must do their own believing and [they must do]their own dying."

Well, I started thinking a lot about the past seven or eight days. About the five or so weeks before that. And I started to realize something that you, probably, never figured you'd hear from me... Luther was wrong! He was just plain wrong! Truth is, when we believe, we can do it only one way... TOGETHER! And when we die, we do that the same way... TOGETHER! Even if... Even when... no one else is in the room! That's why we're here... here TOGETHER, this afternoon! Gerald died like he believed... WITH US! He died and believed the way he lived... WITH US! Each of us! All of us! From his nearest, dearest to those of us he only talked with occasionally! We've been in it... TOGETHER!

That valley... that darkest valley... that valley of the shadow... It's not a journey we make one at a time! It's not, even, a journey we make one at a time with god! It's a journey we make side by side, hand in hand! We make it with doctors and nurses! But we, also, make it with family and friends! Look around you! These are the people who have walked with Gerald for the past six weeks! These are the people who shared the journey for the past four score years! Look at the people beside you! The people behind you! The people in front of you! Look at their tears! Listen to their sighs! It's impossible for us to say that Gerald is making that journey alone! There's no way we can say he's making it without us!

If one suffers, all suffer... TOGETHER! At least, that's how the apostle says it! If one is honored, all rejoice... TOGETHER! This is not the time for one! This is not the time for alone! This is when, where TOGETHER lives and moves and has its being! This is when we talk... TOGETHER! This is the time to laugh! To laugh and cry... TOGETHER! This is the time to tell stories... TOGETHER! The time not to be strong, but to be human... TOGETHER! This is not the time for one. But the time for two or three gathered!

A week ago, Gerald died. But he didn't do it alone. We, too, were there. We knew it in the tears in our eyes... in the lump in our throat... in the emptiness deep inside... Wife... Children... Grand and great-grand children... Neighbors and friends... Colleagues and coworkers... we were with him... TOGETHER... Today, we remember... Today we mourn... And we do it all... TOGETHER... Even more, today, we dream... we dream and we believe... And like everything else, we do it... TOGETHER!

But we need to hear the psalm in a new and different way...

The LORD is OUR shepherd; WE shall not be in want.

The LORD makes US lie down in green pastures and leads US beside still waters.

You restore OUR soul, O LORD, and guide US along right pathway...

Though WE walk through the valley of the shadow of death, WE shall not fear...

For you see, my friends, we are not alone! Because we do it... we do it all... TOGETHER!

the sermon for

the Memorial Service for Gerald Vernon Mendenhall

07 January 2015

Psalm 23

Life, especially at times like this, is not a “me” thing,

but an “us” one!

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.

The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.

You restore my soul, O LORD, and guide me along right pathways...

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil...

Over the years, I have no idea how many times, I’ve read those words. Always, it seems, at times like this. Yet, the amazing thing is how each and every time I read them, something new and different comes from the old and familiar. This time, the psalm conjured up a quote by Martin Luther. “Everyone must do two things alone,” he wrote, “They must do their own believing and their own dying.” “Everyone must do two things alone... believe... and die...”

I think it was because of all the “I”s and “me”s and “my”s. “The LORD is MY shepherd; I shall not be in want... The LORD makes ME lie down and leads ME beside still waters. You restore MY soul, O LORD, and guide ME... Though I walk, I shall not fear...” It’s all first person! It’s all singular! And at first glance, at least on the surface, it’s sounds a whole lot like the good doctor! “Everyone must do two things alone; they must do their own believing and [they must do]their own dying.”

Well, I started thinking a lot about the past seven or eight days. About the five or so weeks before that. And I started to realize something that you, probably, never figured you’d hear from me... Luther was wrong! He was just plain wrong! Truth is, when we believe, we can do it only one way... TOGETHER! And when we die, we do that the same way... TOGETHER! Even if... Even when... no one else is in the room! That’s why we’re here... here TOGETHER, this afternoon! Gerald died like he believed... WITH US! He died and believed the way he lived... WITH US! Each of us! All of us! From his nearest, dearest to those of us he only talked with occasionally! We’ve been in it... TOGETHER!

That valley... that darkest valley... that valley of the shadow... It’s not a journey we make one at a time! It’s not, even, a journey we make one at a time with god! It’s a journey we make side by side, hand in hand! We make it with doctors and nurses! But we, also, make it with family and friends! Look around you! These are the people who have walked with Gerald for the past six weeks! These are the people who shared the journey for the past four score years! Look at the people beside you! The people behind you! The people in front of you! Look at their tears! Listen to their sighs! It’s impossible for us to say that Gerald is making that journey alone! There’s no way we can say he’s making it without us!

If one suffers, all suffer... TOGETHER! At least, that’s how the apostle says it! If one is honored, all rejoice... TOGETHER! This is not the time for one! This is not the time for alone! This is when, where TOGETHER lives and moves and has its being! This is when we talk... TOGETHER! This is the time to laugh! To laugh and cry... TOGETHER! This is the time to tell stories... TOGETHER! The time not to be strong, but to be human... TOGETHER! This is not the time for one. But the time for two or three gathered!

A week ago, Gerald died. But he didn’t do it alone. We, too, were there. We knew it in the tears in our eyes... in the lump in our throat... in the emptiness deep inside... Wife... Children... Grand and great-grand children... Neighbors and friends... Colleagues and coworkers... we were with him... TOGETHER... Today, we remember... Today we mourn... And we do it all... TOGETHER... Even more, today, we dream... we dream and we believe... And like everything else, we do it... TOGETHER!

But we need to hear the psalm in a new and different way...

The LORD is OUR shepherd; WE shall not be in want.

The LORD makes US lie down in green pastures and leads US beside still waters.

You restore OUR soul, O LORD, and guide US along right pathway...

Though WE walk through the valley of the shadow of death, WE shall not fear...

For you see, my friends, we are not alone! Because we do it... we do it all... TOGETHER!
 
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the sermon for

the Committal of Gerald Vernon Mendenhall

07 January 2015

John 5:25 – verse given Gerald at his baptism
"Very truly, I tell you, [Jesus said to them,]
the hour is coming, and is now here,
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live."
Faith is waiting patiently knowing Jesus will speak!

When I, first, came to Midland, I didn't know a whole lot about my family. There was Mom and Dad and brother. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. But beyond that, things just got foggy. Grandparents, for the most part, were nothing more than black-and-white images in an album. Great-grandparents were names scribbled on a piece of paper in my mother's handwriting. And nothing, no one, beyond that. Things changed after I met Gerald! A suggestion here! A word of encouragement there! Thanks to him, I began to understand – really understand – that it meant to have roots! I still see the look on his face on Sunday mornings when I'd share the latest discoveries from the past week!

So, gathering here, in this place, I can't help but wonder how many times, through the years, he'd stood in places just like this! A little greener! A lot warmer! But how many times had he stood here, among the graves, looking down at a name carved in stone. Trying to imagine who they were... what they were like... And, of course, on a good day, he'd drag you along! Hoping that you might understand why it was so important to him!

Gerald taught me that cemeteries weren't scary places. Full of ghosts and ghouls. And they aren't a place only to mourn and to grieve. This is the place family sleeps! Look around you! At the markers! At the stones! All these people are Grandmas and Grandpas! They're moms and dads! Sons and daughters! Brothers and sisters! Aunts and uncles and cousins! Family! Belonging to each other! A part of each other! These are the people who gave us life! The people who made us and are still making us who and what we are! And Gerald would come here to breathe it all in! He was comfortable in places like this! He felt at home! And he, too, belonged! And as he stood here, he knew that on each and every stone, there are two dates. A time to be born; and a time to die. There is a first breath and a final heartbeat for everyone. To a genealogist, is just a part of the story. A part of everyone's story.

And, of what I know of Gerald, I think, today, he is content. Content to lie with the others. And content to wait... wait for that great-great-great-great... who will stumble across his name! Content to wait for them to come here... and brush off the dust... and wipe away the cobwebs... and look down in wonder... at the name... at the dates... and know that this man is a part of them! Who gave them life! Who made them who and what they are! Someone who hasn't, even, yet been born!

So, we come here, today, to lay him to rest. Content. At peace. In the sure and certain hope. In life, Gerald belonged here. He was a part of it. His passion! His delight. And I don't think it's any different, now. We call this place 'cemetery'. This is the sleeping place. And if the sleeping place, this has to be the dreaming place, as well! So Gerald, my friend, rest well! Sweet dreams! And we'll see you in the morning!

the sermon for

the Committal of Gerald Vernon Mendenhall

07 January 2015

John 5 . 25 – verse given Gerald at his baptism

“Very truly, I tell you, [Jesus said to them,]

the hour is coming, and is now here,

when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,

and those who hear will live.”

Faith is waiting patiently knowing Jesus will speak!

When I, first, came to Midland, I didn’t know a whole lot about my family. There was Mom and Dad and brother. Aunts. Uncles. Cousins. But beyond that, things just got foggy. Grandparents, for the most part, were nothing more than black-and-white images in an album. Great-grandparents were names scribbled on a piece of paper in my mother’s handwriting. And nothing, no one, beyond that. Things changed after I met Gerald! A suggestion here! A word of encouragement there! Thanks to him, I began to understand – really understand – that it meant to have roots! I still see the look on his face on Sunday mornings when I’d share the latest discoveries from the past week!

So, gathering here, in this place, I can’t help but wonder how many times, through the years, he’d stood in places just like this! A little greener! A lot warmer! But how many times had he stood here, among the graves, looking down at a name carved in stone. Trying to imagine who they were... what they were like... And, of course, on a good day, he’d drag you along! Hoping that you might understand why it was so important to him!

Gerald taught me that cemeteries weren’t scary places. Full of ghosts and ghouls. And they aren’t a place only to mourn and to grieve. This is the place family sleeps! Look around you! At the markers! At the stones! All these people are Grandmas and Grandpas! They’re moms and dads! Sons and daughters! Brothers and sisters! Aunts and uncles and cousins! Family! Belonging to each other! A part of each other! These are the people who gave us life! The people who made us and are still making us who and what we are! And Gerald would come here to breathe it all in! He was comfortable in places like this! He felt at home! And he, too, belonged! And as he stood here, he knew that on each and every stone, there are two dates. A time to be born; and a time to die. There is a first breath and a final heartbeat for everyone. To a genealogist, is just a part of the story. A part of everyone’s story.

And, of what I know of Gerald, I think, today, he is content. Content to lie with the others. And content to wait... wait for that great-great-great-great... who will stumble across his name! Content to wait for them to come here... and brush off the dust... and wipe away the cobwebs... and look down in wonder... at the name... at the dates... and know that this man is a part of them! Who gave them life! Who made them who and what they are! Someone who hasn’t, even, yet been born!

So, we come here, today, to lay him to rest. Content. At peace. In the sure and certain hope. In life, Gerald belonged here. He was a part of it. His passion! His delight. And I don’t think it’s any different, now. We call this place ‘cemetery’. This is the sleeping place. And if the sleeping place, this has to be the dreaming place, as well! So Gerald, my friend, rest well! Sweet dreams! And we’ll see you in the morning!
 
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