All are welcome

Dining with The Saints

A Reading                  2 Timothy 3:14ff (The New Jerusalem Bible)

Hear now these words from a wise soul to one who will follow after . . . a reading from Second Timothy, chapter 3 verse 14 and verses following.

You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the Holy Scriptures—from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. ……….. Refute falsehood, correct error, give encouragement—but do all with patience and with care to instruct. The time is sure to come when people will not accept sound teaching, but their ears will be itching for anything new and they will collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then they will shut their ears to the truth and will turn to myths. But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfill the service asked of you. As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.         

“Literacy of Faith: Remember!”

Granddad Eldon was a long drink of water. Quiet, with a twinkle in his eye, he was husband, father, soda fountain operator and farmer. He was deacon in the church and well-known in his town of 2500. Olton, Texas, like many small towns today, discovered the weekend festival. Providing energy and a sense of community, it also brought in consumers with their pocketbooks.

To aid the process of community and homecoming, The Sandhills Festival honored 5 of its pioneer families. In 1981, this meant that the Kisers would be coming to town. Granddad Eldon’s wife, Ruth, was a Kiser. Her kinfolk came from the West Coast, from New Mexico and the Midwest. The sisters and cousins filled the house.

During the course of the Festival, they had competitions as many small festivals do. The Liar’s competition was a new event that year. My Granddad Eldon signed up for it.

What you must know, is that as a teenager with all of the embarrassment and need for coolness that goes along with that age, I was already embarrassed. Granddad Eldon – he never talks. He just looks at you and smiles. He can lie?! I’ve never heard him tell a story.

Two men were signed up for the contest, Mr. Sluder and my granddad. Mr. Sluder went first. Ten minutes of snow up to the roof of the house and a 10 mile ride on a horse through the blizzard, and I cringed more and more wondering how my granddad was going to top this?

With all manner of gaiety and self-assuredness, my quiet, mild mannered, man of few words granddad, with the twinkle in his eye walks up to the microphone in front of the crowd of 100 or so eagerly awaiting to hear his story.

“Well, you know my wife Ruth and her family, the Kiser’s have been honored this weekend. My house has been full of her sisters and her cousins from all over. It has made me so happy to have all her kinfolk in my house this week.”

And he sat down.

He won the contest that day and we continue to tell this story.

I’m sure that each one of you this day has stories on those who have gone before us. We remember the fun times, we remember the laughter, and we miss the hugs, the twinkles and the company that they provided. I wonder if at times we tend to get caught up in our grief remembering these idyllic times and wishing that they would still be here with us.

I think we tend to forget that they, too, lived through some rough years. Granddad Eldon was born in 1902 that meant that he lived through World Wars, the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. Pulitzer prize winner Timothy Egan in The Worst Hard Time writes about the years of dust blowing so hard in the air that your visibility was only feet in front of you.

He writes, “Before the dust, parents had been able to clean the windows and keep the roof in shape. Now the exterior was worn, as if it had been chipped by vandals, the gutters had fallen away, and the windows were covered with torn sheets splotched with three years’ worth of uplifted soil. Children ran the streets, dirty and hungry; some had simply been abandoned.

‘We are getting deeper and deeper in dust,’ the Boise City News wrote. [1]

My granddad wasn’t abandoned, but pretty much on his own by age 16.

He lived through these times, the World Wars, on through the despair of the 60s and the energy crisis of the 70s. We seem to be living through our own crisis. With election day upon us – are you voting for the environment, poverty reduction, against a candidate or are you voting at all?

As citizens with technology at our finger tips, information at the ready, ease of transportation, so much luxury and privilege – what are you doing with it?

On this Day of Remembrance – we are brought back into the grief of loss. Grief is real. Mourning is healthy.

The challenge is to not forget that we are still living. Our blood courses through our veins and our chests rise ever so slightly as we continue to breathe. And at times, I get frustrated, fearful (maybe even angry at times) that I still have to live here . . .

….Not knowing if those who govern will ever decide to work together for the good of the people instead of only making decisions based on the next election cycle

….Not knowing if there will be water enough to live in the next ten years

…Not knowing if my government will govern as if All are created equal and that they should be of and for the people

….Not knowing if the gap between hate and love will continue to expand

….Not knowing if we will act responsibly in response to global warming

I’m sure there were times when my granddad got caught up in his concerns as well – such as the time when he was in his early 70s. After returning from the coffee shop, hitting the remote control button on his visor, he begins to pull into the garage. Getting closer to the back wall, he went to hit the brakes. Instead he hit the gas pedal. Surely afraid that he was going to bump the wall, he slams his foot hard on the brake, but again he hit the gas pedal. Leaving black skid marks on the concrete floor, he drove his car halfway through the brick back wall. As we stopped by after school that day, he took our ribbing and the laughter well as we all inspected the pile of bricks on top of his hood.

His keys mysteriously disappeared by order of my grandmother for three days until she went out to the garage to notice her car missing. When my granddad returned from the daily coffee shop run unscathed, the keys returned to their hook shortly thereafter.

I also remember his dedication to our education. At the end of each six weeks, when the A and B honor rolls were put in the local paper, I could go by to visit my grandparents and know that the list would be cut out, my name circled and a $5 bill all thumbtacked on the bulletin board across from his chair. As one who had his education shortened, he did all he could to encourage our own studies. One of my moments of grief remembered is that he died two months before I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree.

His faith keep going – in spite of hailed out crops, brick walls tumbling down, and his children’s divorces, his faith never waivered. He taught us with those eyes twinkling and sly smile to run the race set before us.

I can hear him as I read this text from Second Timothy.

…. you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering;

….do the work of preaching the gospel;

….fulfill the service asked of you.

….I charge you, as we are a part of the kin-dom: proclaim the message of love, compassion, caring for your neighbor, and welcome or unwelcome, insist on it.

Those who we remember today – whether they lived here 84 years, 31 years or 2 years and those born without breath – we can remember them, their living and their dying, their struggles and remember that Jesus said Blessed are they who mourn – it is in our mourning that Jesus the Christ, embraces us, comforting us so that we may continue to carry the faith – spreading a gospel of hope, peace and justice.

This is the heritage we carry and pass on to those who will sit as teens cringing as their elder steps up on the stage. Remember.

In our living today and tomorrow, Remember there are those coming after us who will be taught by our lives lived, by our demonstrations of faith, love, compassion, hope.

Someone will remember you. What will they remember?

[1] Egan, Timothy, The Worst Hard Time (New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006), 167.