Grace to you and peace from God the Father and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ladies and gentlemen, the world that we live in is broken. Now, that might sound like a strange way to begin a funeral sermon, but please bear with me. There are things which happen in the world around us which are just not right. There are things that shouldn’t take place, and yet, they do. Parents should not have to bury their children, but sometimes, they do. With the amount of food we can produce agriculturally, no one in the world should go hungry, and yet, they do. With all the safety features we have on automobiles today, no one should ever get into a wreck, but they do. Because we know we are all created in the image of God, no one should hate another based upon race, color, or creed, but we do. With medical technology the way it is and all the knowledge we’ve accumulated about living healthy lives, no one should die before their time, but they do. Our world is broken.
And the thing is, we would like to fix it. We would like to make things perfect, but fixing the world is an awfully big task. And throughout history, we’ve seen people who try to fix the world–they try to get rid of disease. They try to get rid of hunger. They try to get rid of poverty. They try to get rid of pain and suffering and evil, and no matter how hard they try, these things continue on in many various ways. It would almost be enough to make a person throw up his or her hands and say, "I give up. I can’t do anything about it."
But that person would be wrong. There is something we can do. We might not be able to change the world, but we can have an impact in our own little sphere’s of influence.
I may not get this quote exactly right, but Buddy was once heard to say to his little league team when they were about to take on the best team here in Victoria, "Gentlemen, if you’ve already made up your mind that you’ve lost, you’ve already beat yourselves. If you’ve already decided that, you’ve already lost. Don’t ever quit. It all starts in your mind and with what you believe."
These are important words, not only for sports and athletics, but also for those of us who walk the Christian walk of faith. For if we were caught up in believing there was nothing we could do to change anything, we would fall into despair. We would be justified in giving up. Yet, if we believe that God is somehow working in and through creation to bring about good–if we believe that God is working even through us and our actions, then we certainly would never quit. We would certainly never despair. We would certainly never give up hope. If we believe in God and in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it impacts what we do and how we live.
Buddy had that faith, and if you looked in his life, you would see it. You would see how God worked through him and through some of the events in his life. You would see it in Buddy being reunited with Kim 17 years after his writing her love letters in the first grade only to have her move away after that year. Somehow I don’t see that as a coincidence. You would see it in his dedication to his family–to the love he showed to Kim, to Travis, to Kaleigh, to Kyndall, to Justin, and his nieces and nephews. You would see it in how he worked day after day year after year to provide for them, sacrificing his time to ensure they had what they needed. You would see it in his being there for all his kids’ sporting events and practices. You would see it in his teaching them to hunt and to work around the lawn and on various things around the house. You would see it in his acceptance and care for his mother-in-law when she moved into their home after no longer being able to care for herself. There was no pressure, no stress. "We’ve got to take care of JoAnn," he said. You would see it in his dedication to revamp Rosebud Field and establish the Friends of Victoria so that kids would have a place to play baseball. You saw it in his turning down hunting and fishing trips to officiate in numerous football and basket ball games. In all these things, Buddy practiced the second greatest commandment that we heard earlier read from Mark Chapter 12, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." Buddy strove to do just that, and in doing so, he made an impact and made a difference in the world around him.
But he couldn’t change the world completely. There were still things that happened to Buddy that he couldn’t control and that he didn’t like. If you were a recipient of one of his phone calls on his daily commute, you knew that. He also had a word or two to relate about politics if you ever engaged in one of those discussions with him. He did have a slight stubborn streak in him as well. And of course, Buddy couldn’t change the fact that he had pancreatic cancer.
I remember the evening he was taken down to Memorial City in Houston as they prepared to do a procedure to stop the internal bleeding caused by the tumors. I stood in the hospital room with him and Kim, and he laid there looking lovingly at her. There were very few words that evening, and absolutely no complaining. He didn’t ask why this was happening to him. He wasn’t bitter at God or at anyone. He knew that after years of smoking and living a very stressful life, such things can happen. Buddy knew that the world was broken; he was broken, and there wasn’t much he could do about it. He accepted it, but he didn’t quit.
From that time on, he began making sure his family would be taken care of. He focused on spending as much time with them as he possibly could. He’d sit out on the back porch of his house and reflect and think, and every once in a while, he’d sit down with his pastor and talk about things. As I said before, let me say again, he never complained or asked why he had cancer. The only things he complained about were his acid reflux and some of the things Kim tried to make him eat and drink to help out with the reflux and fight the cancer. Not that I can blame him though, I mean, who really wants to eat a bunch of Kale chips? Kim was aware I was going to say this, by the way; and I do want to say this, Kim, as an outside observer, you need to know that your dedication to your husband and your care for him and your kids is much admired. You are a real trooper.
Buddy and I had many conversations on that back porch, about his kids, about sports, about hunting, and about faith. Buddy had walked away from the church in earlier years. He’d gotten frustrated with the brokenness of how church sometimes is. He didn’t want to put up with how imperfect humans try to worship a perfect God; but several years ago, he and his family came out to St. John Lutheran Church of Cat Spring. Buddy returned, and he was glad to find a place to worship once again. He was glad to talk about his faith.
On one of the last visits I made with him, I caught him in a very contemplative mood. I pried, and without going into the details, he said, "Sometimes, pastor, I wonder if I’ve done enough."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, there have been some things that I’ve done in my past that I know were wrong. I don’t know if I’ve done enough to make up for them."
I replied, "I could give you an answer straight up, but instead, I’ve got a story to tell you. It’s about a guy who went to see a saint. This saint reportedly had visions where she spoke with God. The guy went up to her and said, ‘Is it true that you have visions.’
‘Yes,’ she replied.
‘Is it true you speak with God?’
‘Can you do a favor for me? Next time you have a vision, ask God about this sin I committed years ago.’
The saint agreed. A month later, the man returned, and he asked, ‘Have you had a vision?’
‘Yes,’ the saint replied.
‘Did you ask God about my sin?’
‘What did He say?’ asked the man.
The saint replied, ‘He said, "What sin?"’
Buddy paused for a few seconds and said, "That covers it, doesn’t it?"
I replied, "Yes, it does."
Buddy realized he couldn’t fix his brokenness, but God could. Christ could through the forgiveness He gives to all Christians. And even though we cannot fix the world–we can’t fix hunger, or poverty, or sickness, or cancer, or death, as Christians, we have the promise that God will.
As we heard from the book of Revelation, one day we will see a city of gold, a new heaven and a new earth. There will be no more hunger, no more thirst, no more pain and suffering. There will be no more heat or cold, and God himself will wipe every tear from their eyes. Buddy is experiencing this reality right now.
Buddy is now with God and he is no longer suffering. No longer having acid reflux, and perhaps either not having to eat kale chips or they are so tasty that he doesn’t mind them. He fully knows now the promises of God, and for this we rejoice. And we remember. We remember that even though we grieve this day, we grieve because we miss Buddy. We grieve because we no longer have him to travel with in our earthly journeys. But we do not say farewell this day. We do not say goodby. Instead, we say, "See you later." For one day we will be reunited with Buddy as we go to be with God and we experience the joys of heaven, the forgiveness of sins, and the restoration of a broken world. Amen.