October 18, 2015

Jack Lynch

They say in our training to be Episcopal priests, that “every funeral sermon is an Easter sermon.” That is, when we gather as we are doing today, we are always celebrating the resurrection. Death is not the final word. That word is “life” – the life that Christ has given us and shall give us into eternity.

But this life we speak of is not simply some pleasant life in the clouds, finally freed from sickness or struggle. It’s not a life of endless golf courses and perfect wind for sailing. That’s more of an American Express vision of eternity. What makes this life beyond death so worthy of our hope is that it is a life in which our union with God and one another is now fully realized.

We were made for God. And God has been at the center of our yearnings, all our life long. Much of this life on earth is a mystery. But surely we are meant in this life to seek for God – not merely as a ticket to heaven when we die – but that this life itself might be a preparation and participation with the heart of God. That is why Christ taught us to pray, “thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This life and the way we experience it should be a foretaste of the life eternal.

At the center of this life is God. And for those who knew Jack and were loved by Jack, they have been given a foretaste of God and the nature of God. This is not to say that Jack was perfect or divine by any means – but the nature of his love was consistent with the nature of God’s love, and for those who were fortunate enough to be formed by it, they have been well prepared to meet their God.

In our Christian tradition we know God as Trinity: as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And I believe these three persons of God are reflected in Jack Lynch.

His children wrote to me, stories of their father. And the theme that was consistent about him was the extraordinary way he was able to foster different, yet equal relationships with each of his kids. He knew them. He saw and appreciated their distinctiveness and loved them each in their own way. And it was his love of their particularity that they hold so dear. For isn’t this what we hope of God – that yes – his love be universal for all creation, for all people and nations, but that his love be also distinctly ours, that we would be known and cherished intimately for who we are. Kelly also remembered her father telling her that as much as he enjoyed raising them as children, he felt that the real fun started once they’d all became adults and he could just enjoy them. Oh, please God, may this be true of you – that your raising of us in this life be a preparation of your enjoyment of us forever.

But Jack was also a son. And again, the stories of Jack’s relationship with his parents reflect the nature of Jesus’ relationship of absolute loyalty with his heavenly Father. Jesus did nothing of his own, but only what he saw his Father doing. So with Jack. Jack loved being in the Navy and could easily have made a career of it, but he left after two years in order to take over his father’s business when the father was diagnosed with heart disease. And he did it exceedingly well. And when his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he moved to Arizona to be near her so that he could visit with her two or three times a day. As much as Jack showed us a picture of God the Father, so he showed us God the Son. And I would say this of the Son as well: Jesus is described in scripture as “the bridegroom,” and we – the church – as Christ’s bride. God has joined himself to us through Christ and will never leave us or divorce us. And Jack, the bridegroom, became for Sharon a redeemer in her life. He joined her in love and maintained that love all the days of their life. And as Sharon knew the love of Jack, so she was given in the flesh a foretaste of Christ, our bridegroom.

And what of God the Holy Spirit? The Spirit is, of course, the most nebulous person of the Trinity – the hardest to define. We have no pictures in our head of what the Spirit looks like, only of what it does: always present, always sanctifying, always sustaining life and truth and wisdom. And I can’t help but wonder if Jack’s last two years with us were not, in some way, a picture of this Spirit. We lost so much of the Jack we knew – but what remained of him was kindness, compassion, a child-like freedom to dance and sing and to evoke from the staff a profound love. As his sister wrote, Jack was a loving and kind brother throughout his life. How much this … true essence of him was confirmed when he became so very ill. His true spirit remained...a twinkle in the eye, a kind smile to me and those around him.

Jack was not God. He had his faults and his shortcomings, as do we all. But in his quiet and deliberate way, he chose love. And in this love he has shown us a face of God. And by his love he helped form his children and family, and prepared them to seek such love in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.