Steadfast Love

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Words shared at Lone Oak First Baptist in celebration of my grandfather’s life.

My grandfather was one for whom we could never have enough time to enjoy.  Even after 90 full years, there could never have been enough days with him for us to be satisfied, easily accepting his absence from us.

There could never have been enough time but there has always been enough love.

Roger received an abundant 89 years and 363 days.

He lived his days committed to the life God called him to live …as a son, a brother, a friend, a neighbor, a husband, a brother-in-law, an uncle, a father, a father-in-law, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a child of God, a follower of Christ.

To remember, name, and quantify all dimensions of one man would be an impossible task. But here in this moment, we gather to remember this man –a ritual I humbly lead us through as seen through my lens as his “favorite granddaughter,” as he affectionately called me– a title never competed for but accepted always as gift.

We remember the man who was steadfast in his work.

A long-time employee at the Plant, Roger gave his whole self – his mind, his hands, his heart – to his co-workers, to the tasks given him,for the income that fed and sheltered his family.

He was a carpenter, an engineer, a creator who physically built their home on Bleich Road with his own vision, his own hands, his own spirit.  He told us just two weekends ago that he still had the drawn-out plans for their home somewhere, likely folded in Betty’s meticulously organized drawers.

But our family didn’t need to see the blueprints to remember…
…the sight of that brick on the carport that we would catch as we piled out of the car and were greeted by their warm embrace
…or the kitchen where he helped prepare eggs and sausage for breakfast, while Betty blended her latest healthy organic concoction
…or the basement with his workbench and tools –a glimpse of the creator’s play-space.

They may have moved from that place several years ago, but that home still lives on within his family who were formed, loved, and nurtured there on Bleich Road.

Throughout the ups and downs, the walls Roger built were the physical manifestation of his steadfast love for his family. They held the family together.  He did more than just build a house –he created a home. He was, himself, home for them.

We remember the man who was steadfast in his membership to the Hunt name.

Roger was always full of stories of life on the farm, lessons from his mother and father, mischief with his siblings.  His heart belonged to the people and place that made him the man he was.  He loved the annual family reunion where we gathered around a pot-luck meal, flipped through old family photo albums, and told again the old tales that knit together our common history.

We remember the man who was steadfast in his affection for his wife and his adoption of her family as his own.

Following the death of Betty and Maxine’s brother, Dalton Elwood, and then the sudden death of Maxine’s first husband, Roger accepted the responsibilities of now being the man of the family.  He was firm and steady, tender and dependable, consistent and loyal.

Through every new idea Betty had, Roger was steadfast as her partner.  She brought the creative anxious energy and he brought the steady hands –arranging and re-arranging, mixing and organizing – so that together they were one in life, one in spirit – complementary pieces of one unified whole.

We remember the man who was steadfast in his delight for life’s rich bounty of blessings…whether on the golf course, in the choir loft, at the work bench, or supporting his Wildcats.  If you were lucky, you caught a glimpse of him before his greatest audience – children… whether young in years or young in spirit.

He was always full of tricks and favorite jokes. He was a traveling delight who carried joy with him, always ready to bring out and share the light within for us all to see and be delighted.

We remember the man who was steadfast in his devotion to God – his Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer – and to the Church, the gathered Body of Christ.

He loved his Sunday School class.  He was loyal to the choir where his heart could sing.  He was always ready to report the numbers from the morning at Lone Oak First Baptist.

Roger was a man who lived out Paul’s instructions in Colossians… He clothed himself with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  He bore life’s challenges and practiced forgiveness as he received it.  He was bound to Christ’s love and grounded in Christ’s peace.  With gratitude in his heart, Roger sang hymns to God – doing all things in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father.

We now face a life we have never had to live before – one where Roger’s steadfast love is not physically present on which to depend, to find comfort, to find our way home.  We may feel lost without him.  His steadfast love drew us together and reminded us whose we are – we have been Roger’s and that has made all the difference.

Roger’s steadfast love was the embodiment of God’s heart.  Made in the image of God, Roger was a mirror to the Creator – reflecting imperfectly but profoundly the character of God.

Though we grieve, though we mourn, we do not live as those without hope – for God’s steadfast love, that which was in Roger’s heart, God’s steadfast love endures forever.  We see in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that God’s love for us is so steady, so resolute, so firm, so unshakeable that nothing can separate us from the comfort of being held in God’s eternal arms.

May we carry on Roger’s steadfast love, letting it grow and blossom…
so that we might let Love shine for the children in our midst
so that we might let Love sing its tune in harmony with God’s creation.
so that we might let Love shape us to be home for all those in our presence.

Even as we enter the foreign territory of life without Roger, we sing praises to the God who created us…

Praise be to the God who stays with us, whose steadfast love endures forever.

Praise be to the God who comforts those who mourn,
who stays close to the broken-hearted

Praise be to the God whose Love even overcomes death,
overpowering our despair with the good news
that there is still new life even when endings come.

Gathered around our breakfast meal two weekends ago for his 90th birthday celebration, Roger prayed the simplest but most profound prayer, in a quiet voice through the tears that overflowed in gratitude for this life shared together…

Thank you, thank you, thank you
Be close to us, be close to us, be close to us.

In the same manner, I pray the same prayer today and always.

God who created Roger and now holds him in the divine embrace – thank you, thank you, thank you.

God who stays by our side as we grieve and who knits us together in our remembrance of this beloved man–be close to us, be close to us, be close to us.

Amen.

 

 

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