Monday, September 21, 2015

One Year Ago...

One year ago, yesterday, a faithful servant went to meet our Master.

This is Wayne King. He was the pastor at Daniel’s small Presbyterian church for ten years, and a very good friend of ours. And before that, he and his wife, Julie, spent 20 years doing Bible translation work in Malaysia, for a language that - I understand - previously didn’t have a written form.

I have enormous respect for Wayne. For almost four years before he passed away, he preached on the Lectionary (yes, THAT Lectionary) every Sunday. The first three years, he preached on the Gospel every week. I got kind of spoiled on having two sermons on the same text every Sunday - one of which was usually 45 minutes long.

He tried - really tried - to make sure that he got it “right”, and it was usually clear that his message on the Gospel was informed by the other two readings. You can’t even say that about most sermons in the Catholic church - and it’s the Lectionary we’ve used for years! It was alarming how often he and Pope Benedict XVI said the same things in their sermons each week.

He had a very ecumenical mindset. In fact, in January 2014, I brought him an information sheet on the Louisiana Life March, asking if an announcement might be made encouraging church members to attend. Now, I delivered this document into his hands with the warning that there would be Catholics there in large numbers, and that the were likely to hear at least a few different rosaries being prayed in large groups. I thought he’d want to at least run it pass the Elders, but no. He handed the sheet I’d brought right to the man who was making the announcements that morning.

When the end of the 3-year cycle came, he barreled straight into the second reading, and he spent a few months doing that before he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, a battle that he lost a year ago, yesterday.

It is mostly because of Wayne that I started this blog, started writing Reading Reflections on the Sunday readings, and started in the strange place that I did (who starts doing their reading reflections with the 2nd reading?) - it’s because that’s where he left off.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a set of readings and scratched my head and said, “I wonder what Wayne would talk about.”

There is one other thing I’d like to share.  He died on a Saturday, and while he had long since stopped preparing sermons because of his health, I got chills when we read the second reading at Mass the next morning. It is what we would have been reading that morning, if Wayne had continued preaching sermons right along, and I would like to share those verses here:
Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better. Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again.

Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel, not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him. Yours is the same struggle as you saw in me and now hear about me.

                                                                                        Philippians 1:20-30

It is exactly the sort of thing I would have used for a “Last Sermon” text, and so I knew that the Lord had chosen that date for Wayne far, far in advance. I want to say I can see the Lord’s reasons, but really I still don’t.

I still miss him. Yesterday, the church had a celebration of life / memorial luncheon for him, and I could not stop crying during the little presentation they did.

I can’t tell you how much I always appreciated the fact that Wayne was willing to meet me where I was, and encourage me in becoming more closely conformed to the image of God - from where I was.

Wayne also made rather a habit of reading a little more than the Lectionary called for, and so, I’ve read a little farther than the Lectionary called for, because I figure he’d have probably read that, too. And, yes, that’s why I often suggest that everyone read more than what the Lectionary calls for - to get context - just like he did.

Photo Credit: Original Image Copyright © Eileen Stark 2010. Used with permission. 
(By the way: No, I am not exactly sure what he is eating. I understand that it is a Malaysian desert of some kind.)

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