“Those who are faithful will abide in God’s love.”
A few weeks ago, I offered a sermon about abiding in God’s love, taking a cue from the example Jesus gave of the grapevine. We learned that the grapes that are closest to the vine are the sweetest – and the inference is that those of us who consciously choose to be close to God through a life of prayer and service bear much spiritual fruit.
That was Joe.
We pause on this Memorial Day weekend to remember him, those who died in service to our country, and all who died over this last difficult year. Whenever someone dies, especially someone as beloved as Joe, it is important that we pause to gather out of respect and love for the person. It is a way of showing honor.
It’s also important for us on our spiritual journeys to take to heart the lessons of those people, like Joe, who were truly exemplars of faithful living. In the Book of Daniel, we hear, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” We recognize that there are some people who have graced our lives, who touched our hearts, who showed us something important that can help us journey forward; who, like Joe, can teach us how to live and how to love.
Joe was blessed with so many remarkable qualities of mind, heart, and spirit. He was sociable, thoughtful, caring, supportive and kind, deeply kind. He was uniquely optimistic – though the Trump era also had him deeply worried. He knew how to make other people, including this pastor, feel good. My email inbox is full of affirming words from Joe. He went out of his way to make sure I knew that he and others thought I was doing a good job as the new pastor. His emails always signed off with “Kind wish.”
Even when he was struggling with his own health problems, he would sometimes call me up to be sure I knew about someone else’s challenges. Not once did he ever complain about his – though in his last week of life, he admitted that things had become very hard. And all of these wonderful qualities grew from a deep faith in God at the very core of his being. At our very first visit shortly after I started as pastor, when he was in the hospital, he wanted me to know the prayer that was most important to him – The St. Paul School Prayer by St. Ignatius, which grounded his life. (We will say it together at the end of the service.) From that first visit with Joe to our last call, I realized that Joe Mechem was someone truly special, someone I and many of you will not forget.
In the Letter to the Romans, Paul says, “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” Another way of saying this is that the One who creates us and connects us to one another continues with us; The love of God that holds us in life, continues to hold us in death. The bonds of love that we create with each other here on earth do not end at death.
Though our physical relationship to those we love changes, death can not end our spiritual relationship; The gifts of love that Joe and all our most treasured people plant in our hearts and our lives continue to blossom within us and around us after they are gone. Next Sunday, when we reopen the doors to the sanctuary for worship, many of you will be able to see one of his lasting legacies – our renovated interior. With Sandy Lawrence, Joe’s leadership of our capital campaign is a testament to his faith, dedication, and tremendous talents. The abundance of ways in which God blessed us through Joe are graces – signs of God’s enduring presence with us – that will continue to inspire our own faithful journeys. Amen.