Mother Katherine’s sermon preached on Sep. 18, 2021

Posted by on Sat, Sep 18, 2021 in Burial Rite, Sermons

Burial Rite: Millard Fillmore ‘Bud’ Harmon, III

Sep. 18, 2021

“That sounds like Bud!” Those were June’s words as we chose today’s readings. Indeed they do. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.” Classic Bud. Maybe not in those words exactly, but he carried that sense of God’s steadfast love with him, even his steps processing in with the choir had a purposefulness to them, as if to say, ‘Ah, this is what we do, this is whose we are.’

One night during Holy Week Bud did something in a way that no one else could do so guilelessly. We were at the end of an emotional and sacred Maundy Thursday service, where the choir leads everything. They do it well and with care and solemnity. After the washing of feet the choir led us in to gather around the altar for Communion. At the very end the sanctuary light is extinguished, the space is darker, and completely quiet. As the choir slowly moved out from each side, past those in attendance, I heard Bud’s stage whisper; “Well that’s one down and four to go!” A few stifled snickers and shushes were heard, but we all knew he wasn’t complaining or trying to ‘get it over with.’ He was marking a moment and commitment, after being part of a service he was always moved by — with more to come. He and June have been the embodiment of “The steadfast love of the Lord” never ceasing, and part of that love was his humor and direct honesty. 

These were some of God’s gifts to Bud, and thereby to us. What I love about that story is that Bud was here to say it. (And yes, he was here for the other four Holy Week and Easter services.) He was here for the church dinners and Bingo fundraisers for the teens, capital drives, picnics, work parties, countless choir rehearsals and coffee hours, the baptisms and the funerals, and here for the great feast days and those low Sundays. I’d see him talking at length to a visitor and afterwards ask his name — rarely remembering, his answer was always, “Ask June, she’ll know.” It’s true, June remembers every person she greeted! These two are part of the spark that lights this world up. You have only to recall his bringing St. Nicholas to vivid life each year to know that spark. He loved the St. Nicholas role which Mother Ann so aptly cast him in, and one we insisted he continue well past years of saying, “This is the last year, Jason, Katherine.” He was faithful in serving God and especially God’s children. Doing so through his St. Michael’s community was a gift to us all.

As the family planned his service there were marvelous stories of Bud’s relationship with each, about him being a dad, a grandfather, husband and more. I’ll let Clark tell you about that shortly. These stories guided their choice of scriptures well. There was a slight hesitation on the 23rd Psalm and the 1 Corinthians reading because of how often they are heard. Yet is the familiar love-worn words our hearts find comfort and rest as we grieve, find grace and hope even in our most troubling times. They are new each time we stop and really hear them. June recalled the Corinthians reading from their wedding, and knew it felt right for today. She requested the exquisite white gladiolas on the altar, also at their wedding. It is the color of the church at weddings, funerals, Eastertide and Christmas. As Christians we know God’s grace is with us in all such times, and with us as we recall Bud’s presence in our own lives. 

Jesus’ words from our gospel today began, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” (I agree with you June, that also sounds just like him!) Sometimes it feels as if we’re ‘believing’ until something happens that proves our belief justified or questioned. Bud’s sense of steady faith felt so sure and solid that anything so tentative was inconceivable. For some, belief in God isn’t so much about a choice, it simply ‘is.’ I think Bud may have been like that. Having had to wait nearly a year for this burial rite and to celebrate his life in Christ has been difficult, and yet even now there is a palpable immediacy to his presence. Present to our mourning, and to our shared life. To abide in Christ’s love means life is never over, even in death.

At the end of the reading, Jesus is answering a worried Thomas, who’s afraid he’s missing Jesus’ directions. Jesus wasn’t giving Thomas and the others a time to go or a place to find, but rather a way to be. He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” 

That’s the thing about Christianity, we might think ‘there’s one down and four to go!’ but God knows (and Bud knows) we keep right on living in Christ, living in each other’s hearts. Eternal love knows no limits.

© 2021 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved. Posted with permission.