Tonight our church family will gather to remember and celebrate God’s grace and goodness in the life of Dale Harper, a dear member of our congregation I have known for most of my life. We will also gather together to declare our confidence in God’s saving mercy and the truth of his promises of resurrection and eternal life. We will certainly cry and most likely laugh a great deal as we celebrate a life so well-lived: a life so fully devoted to loving God and neighbor.
Yesterday I sat down for a bit to work on my sermon for Sunday, and I was struck by how fitting the text is for where our community finds itself this week. The second chapter of Isaiah makes some pretty bold and profound statements about the different things we can pursue in life and where our allegiances and confidences will ultimately lead us. I won’t preach the sermon here, but let’s just say caves filled with bat and mole dung play a big part…
Since moving up here, what always struck me about my time spent with Dale was that it was as if he had already been given his eternal eyes, so to speak. The things he was excited for and committed to and anticipating were so clearly the places where God’s spirit was moving and working around him. It was like a veil of sorts had been lifted and he was able to plainly see what God was doing: and he wanted to be a part of it.
We all talk about wanting to “join God’s work” or “follow God’s spirit”, and most of us struggle most of the time to genuinely know and sense and follow where we see God lead. Dale had such clear vision, it seemed to me. He had been given eyes to see. The fruits of his eternal life were already being made manifest in our midst.
Dale’s life offers the opposing witness to the judgments found in Isaiah two. Dale did not waste himself on pursuits that lead to dark caves or treasures that end up covered in dung. Dale knew what the good stuff was. Dale knew what it meant to accept the prophet’s invitation and “come…and walk in the light of the Lord.”
I praise God for Dale and all that he was in our life together. I praise God for the witness Dale was, in sickness and in health. I praise God for Dale’s healing, which is now complete.
I will remember Dale with a lot of joy and thanksgiving in my heart. And I will miss him.