[Jesus said,] "Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.
If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and will take you to myself,
so that where I am, there you may be also.
And you know the way to the place where I am going.
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.
In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.
I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."
John 14:1–4, 18–19, 25–27
As one of six pastors in a church with over 5,000 members and seven weekend church services, I do a lot of weddings and funerals. The sad truth is that I barely know the folks I get the privilege and honor to "marry and bury." I feel this acutely when it comes to funerals. In every memorial service I have done, save one, up until this point, I had never even met the person who has passed on. When I meet with the family to go over the service and arrangements, I ask LOTS of questions about their loved one. I ask serious questions about their faith... I ask about funny and meaningful stories... I even ask them about the music their loved on like... ANYTHING so I can get to know their loved one. I do this so I can be as connected to them as I can, so when I step up to speak about them, it is coming from my heart.
Well...this time...I KNOW this man...and I have some STORIES. As I share some of these stories, you will see who my Dad is, and why I love him.
My Dad is the BIGGEST kid I know!!! After he retired a few years back, he started to go to Disney in Florida... often. I thought he went only a couple of times, but as I was conversing with my sister, it turns out is was more than that. Whether he did this covertly, or I just didn't pay attention, is up for debate. What ISN'T up for debate is that he never took us when we were kids. In fact, he used to say how frivolous that place was! (If you can't tell, I have some baggage to work through on this). When it was Christmas, he would play with all of our toys... often before we ever received them, and well after we did. I remember one time, "Santa" gave me a race track, which I was "too young" to set-up. Of course, my Dad set it up, and spent the next 3 hours "setting it up," while I not-so-patiently waited for it to be ready. Everyone who knows my Dad knows he had HORRIBLE teeth... like Pirates of the Caribbean bad... which incidentally is his favorite Disney ride... but I digress. I was about 10 years old - he had all of them pulled out in preparation for dentures. Later that same day.. .perhaps it was the sedatives... he decided he wanted to get his golf clubs out of layaway at Kmart. So, he gets them out, and we go into our back yard on Delwood… which was not a back yard at all (more like a strip of grass) where he tee'd the ball up... swung his driver, and hit the craziest shot ever. Mind you, we are in a dense residential area. The ball hits a telephone pole... a fence... a tree... and then finally a house with a big "SMACK!!!" He looked at us with the biggest, no-teeth smile and said, “Let's get out of here!!!" That's my Dad... the biggest kid I know.
My Dad is the Toughest... and softest... man I know!!! Just look at what he's been through in the last 6-weeks. Three strokes, a few pulmonary embolisms, a heart attack, and two legs blocked with blood clots. I spoke to the doctor after the heart attack and was asking him what we should do next. The doctor said, “Well, frankly, Sam… you’re father should be dead! There is nothing we can do for him and if there was, there aren't many case studies we have ever seen to be of much help on where we go from here." My dad's forearms are the size of my calves, and he has a way of walking around… or rather rumbling about…that would strike fear into the hearts of many men. I remember when he and I worked at the same factory, so many people would come to me and tell me how big, tough, and scary my Dad is. I would say, “Oh, you’re right… but do you know he has a teddy bear collection?” That’s my Dad… the scariest person in the room… with a teddy bear collection. You really see it clearly when it comes to his grandchildren… he was absolute PUTTY near them. No matter the day, time, or circumstance he will stop what he is doing to spend time or help them. So many movies… SOOOOO much Dairy Queen… he loves his grandkids. To prove it to you, I’ll share a story about Colin. My Dad is a quiet guy, which I’ll talk about more in a minute. One of his big rules… he doesn’t like ANY noise or talking in the car… ZERO!!! A rule my sister and I know very well as we have been the recipient of his heat-seeking hand many-a-time. Well, one time Colin was violating that rule BIG TIME in the car. I did everything I could think of to make him stop, but he just wouldn’t. I could tell my Dad was reaching his limit, so finally I looked at my Dad and said, “Go get ‘em Dad!” He calmly looked at me and said, “What do you want me to do?" I said, “You know… stop him!!!” He looked at me and said, “He’s good." My reaction... WHAT?!?!?!?!? But… that’s the effect his grandkids had on him… complete mush. My Dad is the toughest-softy I know.
My Dad is a quiet man… he didn’t talk much, and he didn’t like folks that talk too much. I mentioned his rule on car talk. I am a talker, and one time when I was a kid… I think it was around kindergarten… I was sitting at the dinner table non-stop-talking about my day. Finally, my Dad said, “Sam, I don’t need to know everything that went on today. If you don’t quiet down, I’m taking your sister and we’re leaving!!!” (Trust me… this is a perfectly acceptable response… I did talk too much). With tear filled eyes I said, “But I have one more thing to tell you!” He had enough that day, but as you know… he nor my sister… ever left. He never really said ‘I Love You.' I can count on one hand how many times he has. I have absolutely no remorse over this, because when he does say it… he means it… it carries so much weight. I remember when his brother, my uncle, Charles was in the hospital passing away. There had to have been twenty of us crammed in that room. As Charles was breathing his last breath, my Dad turned to me, gave me a hug that darn-near crushed me, and said, “I love you so much, Sam." If he only ever said it that once, it would have been enough… it carried that much weight.
Several years back I said good-bye to him. He looked at me, all mad and said, “Don’t ever say good-bye!! You only say, see you later!” That’s it… no explanation… no further discussion. I never really grasped until today how theologically true that statement is. I don’t know what you think about Jesus… what you think about christianity… what you think about christians. The topic of resurrection is foundational to our faith. We heard about it in the scripture from the Gospel of John above. Jesus is saying this to his disciples during their famous “Last Supper." Jesus was saying a whole bunch in this bit of scripture… libraries have been written about all He was saying in this passage. To put it simply… I’m fixing’ to leave, but I’m coming back… and I’ll be taking you with me. Before this meal, Jesus talked about resurrection all throughout the Gospels and it’s always the same thing… even though we die, we will live. I don’t know if you ever have thought about it this way, but as christians… as someone who follows Jesus… we will always have a tomorrow. There will never be a point in our lives when we won’t wake up! There will never be a point where our eyes will close and never open again… they always will!
My Dad is a christian. He believes Jesus was sent by God so we might be forgiven of our sins and to restore creation. He believes that Jesus died for his sins and made him new so that he might partner with God in restoring creation. He tried to understand and follow Jesus the best he could… especially in the past few years.
I believe… I know… that when my Dad exhaled his final breath on this earth, he took his first breath in eternity… and he is still very much alive.
So I will publicly state… MY DAD WAS RIGHT!!!! We should never say ‘good-bye’ to each other. As followers of Jesus we should only say, ‘See you later.'
So Dad… we love you... I love you… and we will, most definitely, see you later.
Because this is a promise from the Father… and this is a promise from the Son… and this is a promise of the Holy Spirit. Amen