Prelude

For those of you who are familiar with my schedule the last two or three weeks, you know how “insane” it has been. But it is not just the schedule, it is the range of emotions I have been experiencing. I just returned from participating in Paul Keller’s memorial service. Paul was a faithful member of our church for many years and we will dearly miss him. I am posting the sermon I preached today in church down below. This week I also learned about the passing of a dear friend in Ohio who succumbed to her battle with cancer. And last week my wife and I attended the memorial service for Bill Burk, the man God used to introduce my dad to the Lord many years ago. Needless to say, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and I feel exhausted.

Needless to say, I have not been able to post with regularity here. I have wanted to but time didn’t allow. It was ironic that just as to preach about the value of work last week I may have given the impression that I was not working enough by not posting a little preview of the sermon last week. My apologies to all of you who have grown accustomed to reading something here prior to Sunday. It was simply not possible for me to do it.

And here I am again: It is pass 11:00 on Saturday night and I have not posted about tomorrow’s message. It doesn’t matter now, I guess, you won’t read it before Sunday anyway. But I will tell you regardless: I will be covering all the verses in Proverbs dealing with the concept of “friendship.” Yes, you heard me right: all the verses. It will be a rolling sermon with an emotional closing. Guaranteed.

Okay, I hope to resume my “regular” schedule here next week. I count on your prayers for that. But I am also getting ready to go to National Conference in Atlanta soon and am trying to get all the gears in place for the exciting series I will starting on the new vision God has given us for Grace Church. That will start the first week of September, right after I get back from a short-term mission trip to SE Asia. Yes, did I tell you that I am going to Cambodia and Thailand in the middle of August? Can’t wait to see my precious children we have rescued for God there. Stay tuned. There will be some posts from Asia soon.

Here is the message I preached tonight:

A Tribute to Paul Keller

 

There is a story in Greek mythology about an ugly and evil monster called the Sphinx. With the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, a serpent-headed tail, and the head of a woman, this monster was positioned at the entrance to the ancient city of Thebes and would pose a riddle to each traveler asking passage. “Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed, and the more legs it has the weaker it is?” She strangled and devoured anyone unable to answer. Oedipus, the Greek hero, finally solved the riddle by answering: “Man—who crawls on all fours as a baby, then walks on two feet as an adult, and then uses a walking stick in old age.”

We too, who are made with an expiration date, are also taunted by a monster threatening to devour us if we don’t solve a riddle. That riddle is death, and the death angel, the mother of all Sphinxes, keeps making house calls as it tells us to return to dust.

Sadly, that day arrived unexpectedly to our beloved friend and brother in Christ, Paul Keller, this week. I met Paul shortly after I moved to Lititz about seven months ago. Since that day I had several opportunities to speak with him here at the church, usually between services. He mentioned to me about his concerns about his upcoming surgery. Though I spoke with him only briefly each time, I can honestly tell you that every time he saw me he always assured me that he was praying for me and one time he even said, “Look I know that you must be dealing with a lot here but just know that there is plenty of people here who are with you and like what you are doing.” That was just like him, wasn’t it? Always positive and encouraging.

Just so you don’t think I am making this stuff up, as I went through Paul’s Bible, I found this flyer here whose title says “20 Scripture-Based Prayers to Pray for Your Pastor.” Wow. It is so humbling for me to think that this man truly prayed for us, pastors, here at Grace Church, and I wish many more will step in to fill that role in light of his passing. Oh yes, and I also saw several outlines of my messages in Paul’s Bible, with all the blanks filled out, every single one of them. I guess Paul liked to get his money’s worth…

As I spoke with Brenda, Charlene and her husband, Jeff, it became obvious to me that we can summarize Paul’s life by saying that he was a lover of God and a lover of people. He has left a great legacy here in the church and in the lives of so many people he loved.

As I thought of this, I remembered a recently encounter I had with a young man from Nicaragua who had been in Lititz only three days. I met him in front of the music store here in Lititz. He was a rock musician, a bass player. He was carrying a bass guitar in a case that had these words in big bold letters: “Live so the preacher won’t have to lie at your funeral.”

Well, Paul has made it easy for me not to have to lie here today. So truth check: Paul loved God and people.

His love for God is evident by the way he brought up his children in the admonition of the Lord. Paul also served God faithfully here at Grace Church, and especially after he became a leader of his Sunday School class, his faith seemed to grow exponentially. Paul’s Bible is marked all throughout and the Book of Psalms was the one he marked the most. And of all the chapters, he seems to be particularly fond of Psalm 119, which is a long poem about God’s eternal Word. Verses such as these figure prominently I his Bible. 18: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law…” “Teach me, O LORD, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end,” (33); “I will always obey your law, forever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (44-45).

Later in life Paul also enjoyed reading Jim Cymballa and David Jeremiah. He also became more purposeful in prayer and would more easily express his feelings, including crying from time to time, contrary to how they remembered him growing up – a man who liked to keep his feelings to himself, which I have found is a trait of this Lancaster County area. But I guarantee you, the more time Paul spent in God’s Word, the more his heart broke for the things that break God’s heart. That is the explanation to his tender-heartiness later in life. That is also the cure to the prisons of our cultures and Paul seemed to have found it in his later years.

Paul was also a great lover of people. First and foremost, his love for his wife, Jean, who went to glory only about a year ago, was something very special. Even after her passing, Paul loved to constantly talk about her. He met her in California and when he had the opportunity in 1981 to buy the family farm back in Lancaster County, he very much wanted to do it but would only do it if his wife was 100% with him. His wife was the baby of the family and very close to her relatives out west, so Paul showed his sensitivity to her by listening to her. In the end, they moved east and it was the best thing that happened, according to his daughters, because it allowed them to grow up in a rich atmosphere, surrounded with cousins, uncles, and many other relatives.

Jeff recalled how sad it was to see Paul come to their house after the passing of his wife, because wherever he was, she was always there with her all his life. Well, Paul is now again reunited with his beloved wife.

Paul also loved his daughters. Brenda recalled how he simply didn’t have the stomach to spank them. The discipline was usually fell to mom. The one and only time he spanked Brenda, she was shocked when it was over so soon and almost painlessly. She remembers thinking, “Is that it?” And then quickly she had to fake a little bit because she said she definitely didn’t want to go through that again.

Paul was very supportive and patient with everything his daughters ever endeavored to do. Charlene remembered how as a 15 year old she had joined the track team and her dad was always on the stands, cheering her on. On the only occasion when he was a little critical of her, at the end of a meet, she remembers him saying, “Charlene, can’t you go just a little faster?” She broke down and cried and it made him feel so bad. He had to come later to apologize. He said, “I am sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to put pressure on you. I just want you to succeed in whatever you do.”

Jeff also recalled the time he showed Paul the ring and asked his daughter’s hand in marriage. He said Paul just sat there and smiled, as if to say that this didn’t come as a surprise. After all, they had dated for four years before they got married. In fact, Jeff got along with his Father-in-Law so well that Charlene remembered the long visits he made to the house before they got married and he would sit there and talk for the longest time with Paul or sometimes they would be watching some sports on T.V. She remembers thinking, “Is he here to visit me or my dad?”

Paul also loved his grandchildren. Both he and his wife were a constant presence in their lives. Charlene said that he absolutely adored them. They would go out to the river, miniature golfing, and attend endless games. It was not out of duty, you could tell they were glad to be there and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, Charlene thinks that Drew’s interest in the outdoors may have originated with his grandfather Paul. So for the two grandchildren, I would like to say, treasure the memories of the times you had with your grandpa and grandma, and continue to develop the interests they passed on to you. Everything you do that was a love of theirs will be a tribute to their investment in your lives.

Of course, Paul loved his other relatives as well. I was told that when the family was told that he and his family was coming back to live in Pennsylvania, there was general rejoicing at a family gathering somewhere. Jeff recalled how at family gatherings Paul never settle down to sit by only one table – he had to move from table to table and speak to as many people as he could. Paul especially loved his nephews and nieces. In fact, he was favorite among many, giving him the courage to sometimes greet his nieces on the phone by saying, “Yes, this is your good looking uncle Paul calling.”

Finally, Paul loved his friends. Many of you here were privileged to be counted among his friends. But do you know what mattered to Paul the most? It mattered that his friends had experienced forgiveness of sins and knew for sure that they were on their way to heaven? You say, “How do you know that? Don’t all preachers say that in funerals just because they have a captive audience there?” Maybe yes, but I don’t do it for that reason. And it just so happens that in Paul’s case, I have proof that what I am saying is true: Paul cared about his friends’ salvation.

A few months ago I preached a message here at the church about heaven. At the end of the service I gave everybody a card that had the words “You are coming to!” on the cover. I asked people to write on the back names of people they loved so much they couldn’t help think about going to heaven without them. I pulled this card out of Paul’s Bible. He wrote several names here. So if you are one of Paul’s friends and you are not sure that you are headed to heaven, maybe your name is here. Paul would hate the thought that you are not coming to join him there someday…

You remember the story of the Sphinx? Just like in that story, our riddle was solved and our hero was not a mythical figure but a historical Person who solved the riddle of death once and for all. As He Himself said it,

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26).

Paul strikes a celebratory tone when he exclaims,

“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” Now Paul really dares to mock death, thank you very much: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).

When Jesus rose again from the dead, He gave all of us hope that we too will rise again one day. God will do something with this old tired body and clothe us with an imperishable body like the one He gave Jesus when He rose again. Some day this cloth we carry around with us, this temporary residency of our soul, will be transformed. He will do something with this DNA he created us with and He will reassemble us in a much more glorious state. And that will put an end to our expiration date.

As John put it at the end of Revelation, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” (Revelation 21:3-4).

For the family, I would like to remind you of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

So when you feel sad, and memories of your beloved father, grandfather, brother, relative or friend try to unsettle you, remember Jesus. He lives to make intercession for us and the Word of God tells us that He was tempted in every way just as we are yet without sin. He is there and He understands so you can go to Him always.

Thank you for coming and may God richly bless you.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

July 13, 2013

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