Psalm 23Psalm 121:5-8 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 John 14:1-3
You have heard stories and remembrances of Andy from those who knew him well. It is a daunting thing to sum up a life in a brief, few minutes and, at the same time, to give voice to the divine character of the God who created Andy and the eternal promise of resurrection that holds us all fast this day.
Eleanor, as you and I sat at your kitchen table last week, and as you shared stories and memories with me from your life with Andy, a life together that began more than sixty years ago, I was struck by one particular thread.
When you moved to New Jersey from Philadelphia, you had this incredibly tight-knit community of family there: Andy’s sister and cousin lived on the same block. Your parents lived nearby; Andy’s mother was just around the corner. The family spent all of its time together, and so it went for some twenty years. Then ARCO asked Andy to move down here to Atlanta. That was back in 1972, a real moment of separation from family that surrounded you and cared for you; an uprooting from community and friends with whom you spent your time. The assumption was that, after Andy retired, you’d move back to New Jersey, back to that close sense of home and family.
You had been down here only six years when Andy retired. And yet, you have stayed. This place has become your new home. Perhaps it was the warmer weather. Maybe it was the fact that many friends from ARCO also moved down here, or the new relationships you forged at Providence Presbyterian and then here at Oglethorpe. Perhaps it was that Andy, deep down, though born a Yankee, at heart was a “frustrated Southern Gentleman.”
Today, I want to suggest that there was also something else at work, something that teaches us about the very possibility of what we do here in this place week in and week out. Last Sunday, during the worship service as we passed the peace, six year old Andrew McKay sought you out, Eleanor, to shake your hand. He and Andy had become friends: Andrew Davis was “Big Andrew” and Andrew McKay was “Little Andrew”. As I watched that scene unfold before my eyes, I thought to myself, “This is Church at its best.”
When the community of faith is knit together this closely, closer than family, as close, even, as members of one body, we become the Church of Jesus Christ. We celebrate one another’s joys and we carry one another’s burdens. We laugh together and we weep together. We learn from one another, and we hold one another accountable. And as we look at that moment some thirty-five years ago of leaving the close-knit safety of New Jersey for the unknown reality of Georgia, we begin to see some of that situation with which we are faced today.
Today, we recognize that Andy’s earthly journey has come to an end. He has left behind the close-knit safety of this place, letting go of those who surrounded him these last few months with acts and words of strength for his physical weakness. He is now a part of what is, for us, the unknown reality of eternity.
But what we do know, we can see in these glimpses of the promises in our Scriptures this morning: a new home awaits, one with ample room for an ever-expanding family; a banquet table is prepared, a feast for which our communion is only a foretaste; and a loving father welcomes us, holding us in a healing embrace that never lets us go.
We know that God loves us even – and especially – now, and that God loves Andy even – and especially – now. Andy Davis’ journey of faith, which began in baptism, is now complete in his death. Today, we are all held by the steadfast love of our Lord who leads our footsteps through the valley of the shadow of death into that place of completion where we see the mystery of God face to face, where the journey is finished, where home awaits us.