a funeral sermon

With Thanksgiving for the Life

of Gary David Runk

6 Oct 1950 + 19 March 2015

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Psalm 23

A time for every season.

It’s a helpful way to look at the frame of life overall. We are born. We all die. We work, we play. There are good times and bad times, in sickness and in health. Even as wedding vows realize, we can’t live a life without living through the variety of all of these moments.

And that reading from Ecclesiastes seems to fit exceptionally well for Gary, including for life with Judy. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to tear and a time to sew. Those last two probably fit with two broken lives coming together into a new, beautiful relationship, even of old wedding rings becoming part of how you two marked your new relationship forming, that you didn’t forget or ignore your old selves and your old hurts and all of your identity even as you came together, united in something new.

And Ecclesiastes goes on in such fitting ways. It says there’s a time to dance! Ah, yes, there was! Not only the relationship for the two of you growing out of the enjoyment of that ballroom floor, but so many other great friendships as well. But in the verse of the Bible reading, that time to dance is also paired with a time to mourn. We certainly aren’t doing much jumping for joy or dancing these days. This must be the time of loss, the time to mourn.

As we’re marking the variety of times in life, all these different seasons and every matter under heaven, as it says, we probably also can’t help but notice that we don’t get to choose the allotments of when the times happen, of how much of any given moment we have to enjoy (or to suffer through).

Particularly this past month, time has been strange. Gary finished work on February 12th. He had his last tests at the doctor on February 13th. February 16th, the following Monday, he discovered there was no treatment option. And just over four weeks later, his illness was over.

Time is also strange in these moments of farewell, looking for how each and every breath is drawn and what each opening of the eyes might mean, trying to measure and draw out the seconds of time together. You’ve also experienced the surprises of this time, of so many caring people showing up all of a sudden to help and to offer care. And when Gary was in pain at the end, it felt like an eternity before relief finally came. All minutes and hours are not the same length or of equal value.

And in the end, we have to confess it didn’t measure up to how we would wish. The 25 years you had with Gary, Judy, is so much less than you’d want. His time was cut too short for how his relationship with you, Devin and Ashley, Brennan and Lillian, should’ve been. You should’ve had more time to spend with your grandpa. And Theresa, this is something a mother should never have to do for her son.

So we can say that there is a time for every season, that we’re born and then we die. But we cannot very well say why those times are what they are. It is not fair. It is not right.

But the one further thing that we must say about time is God’s presence in time with us. Through that whole list in Ecclesiastes, there was nothing about a time of blessing versus a time of punishment, nothing that said a time of God caring for you and a time of God forgetting about you or ignoring you. There are no lone footprints in the sand.

God is always present, for every moment. That is what we said in the words of our Psalm together, that God is with you in quiet and peaceful times, and God is with you through the darkest valleys and moments of death. Furthermore, the Psalm doesn’t end with death. God brings you to a new moment, a new time, a new age, to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

It is this that we have embodied for us in Jesus, God who took on our flesh. God was not content to dwell outside of time in some far away eternity. God came into our world, into our sufferings, into our lives to be with us. In Jesus, God even went through the terrible tragedies of untimely death. But death would not be the end, not have the last word. You’ve experienced and shared so much with Gary, good and bad, but this says there is more to come. Resurrection, new life, wiping away every tear, reunion, gladness, feasting, dancing—these are what is still to come.

That is a promise for Gary, a promise in which he now rests. And it is a promise that is with you for every moment, too.

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