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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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the sermon for

the Second Sunday of Christmas

04 January 2015

John 1:1-18

Moses brought the Law; Jesus made known God's charity and truth!

by Fred Behnken, Parish Lay Minister

While walking our dog, Charlie, Saturday morning, I finally saw the sun. I didn't remember seeing the sun for several days. Those cloudy, dark gray days were filled with bone-chilling winds, snow and mostly freezing rain or sleet.

According to the National Weather Service, these events were predicted. For when there are major drops in temperature and moisture laden clouds, earth's gravity brings down rain as sleet, ice and snow. We often name these events as "acts of nature, which is predictable, unrelenting, inevitable, unmovable and unchanging based on timeless experience. The news told everyone about the weather, dangerous even if you drive with care.

Have you ever driven a vehicle as cautiously as possible, controlling your speed, slowing and turning the steering wheel slowly, carefully and still lose traction and loss of steerage control? This results in a feeling of helplessness as the vehicle slides uncontrollably, skids silently and doesn't go where you intended. Natural laws, absence of control and life events happening that weren't intended impose themselves on us.

These thoughts had me recalling the sense of verses 17 through 18 in today's Gospel of John.. The message was about the place of Law and the Gospel, about rules and charity. These verses reminded me of our all-encompassing understanding of the tension between Law and the Gospel.

"The Law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ...No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known." John 1:17-18 .

The Law for us today is represented in the two stone tablets and over 600 Pharisaic interpretations. These laws ruled the worship and ritually constrained the daily routine of the Israelite's. The dilemma for centuries of observance was that no one was able to keep all of the laws of Moses. No matter how earnestly or hard they tried, none were able, nor are able to appear righteous before God because of their observance of the Law.

The Reverend Martin Luther in the 1500's clearly expressed his frustration, fear and dread of a judgmental God. A judging God whose throne was the Law and vision of judgment promoted by the Church in his day. The law and it's ramifications in his day required faithful and complete obedience. Luther knew full well his failure to keep the law. He greatly feared the judgment of God. He agonized because he knew that he was unable to appear righteous before God based on his own merit or efforts, no matter how earnest and forceful they were. His very salvation depended upon his efforts to fulfill the law. He knew that he missed the mark.

Well, I miss the mark and you as well. You and I, all of humankind, will not, cannot, keep the law and present ourselves as righteous due to our own efforts. If keeping the Law is key to our salvation, we are lost. Our very humanness, our own nature, makes it completely impossible for us to depend on our own merit and deeds. With respect to obedience to the law, we are in chains. We are in bondage and slavery to our human nature (our sin) and cannot free ourselves. We cannot present ourselves as righteous before God. We need a Savior, a Redeemer. Similar to our efforts to drive and steer our vehicles on streets coated with ice, we cannot control or influence the direction we go. We are incapable to live as God desires under the law, even based on our best efforts and intentions.

In this out of control situation, St John reminds, assures and proclaims to us that our Lord Jesus Christ brings charity and a promise from his Father. John proclaims that God, in his son Jesus, has entered into our world. God has interceded, God restores our broken relationship. God, through Jesus, has corrected our loss of life's steerage. Jesus accomplished this when he came into the world as totally human and totally divine. His birth, suffering and the cross assures us. Through Jesus, we hear and experience God's charity, love and mercy that frees us from the Law. God cloaks all in charity, forgiveness and reconciliation, assured and unending for all of creation, not because our actions deserve it, but it is.

This is the new covenant written for all time. What we know as the Gospel. This is the uncompromising, unconditional, one-sided, and gracious extension of God's love and charity provided and clothing all creation. All creation...not just some, not a few, not the self-righteous, but for all, no ifs, no buts, not a single conditional clause separates us from the love and charity of God in Christ.

This is indeed the full, overflowing and unfathomable charity of God...God's love for all...God's charity for all... for the unworthy, the broken, the poor, the grieving and for you, and you, and you and you....

 
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