Friday, April 16, 2010
April 17, 2010
S. Murray Rust, Jr.
April 28, 1912 – April 6, 2010
St. Paul, in the sixth chapter of Romans, and now a stanza of the great Easter canticle: Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more. Death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Friends, grace to you and peace, from God our father, and from our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a privilege to stand here this morning, to say a word about the heart and soul and essential message of Christian life—about faith, hope, and love, about the Cross and the Empty tomb, Good Friday and Easter—as we come together in the midst of this Easter season I know with so many feelings, thoughts, memories, to give thanks for the life of S. Murray Rust Jr., who entered greater life not quite two weeks ago, on the sixth of April.
Quite a life. Born in the last year of the presidency of William Howard Taft and when the automobile and telephone were the latest thing in emerging technology and living vigorously into the era of space flight and Obama and the internet. Nearly a century, and what a century it was! Truly one of the great men of the Greatest Generation.
And to all this great family—children and step-children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and uncles and aunts and cousins (it must be quite a challenge to you all to keep it all straight; I know it is for me)--I do want to say to you a word of appreciation for you, and especially for these past months and really years, as you have come together both for Murray and Elinor, with gentle love, with dignity, care for them both, as they have needed to deal with all the challenges of their lives, and with the care you have shown over and over for them and for one another, with compassion.
Certainly this gathering today a tribute in so many ways to the impact Mr. Rust has had in so many ways over this long and fascinating life, in the lives of so many others. A pebble is dropped in one corner of a pond, and the ripples move out in wider and wider circles.
The Rusts had moved up to Cape Cod two decades before I arrived in Pittsburgh and here at St. Andrew’s, and so I’ve known them personally only from gatherings and conversations during visits or on special occasions. Susy and I had the good fortune to sit for a long and wonderful evening at the same dinner table with the “senior Rusts” at Sean and Leigh’s wedding reception—which seems like about 15 minutes or so ago, though I know the calendar pages do keep turning on all of us. What came through to me most of all was his spirit of generous good humor, and his clarity of thought and expression, and of course his great and expansive enjoyment of and love for his family.
I know from his life story that he was an exceptionally gifted businessman and community leader, a man of great intelligence and strength of character. At the same time, at the table that evening, he struck me as an exceptionally kind and gentle man, a benevolent patriarch surrounded by the wide circle of his loving family.
I have known him most of all of course by way of this remarkable DNA of character as it has passed along into new generations, and as it has been reflected as well in those related not by blood but by years of friendship and shared life. Men and women, boys and girls, with a deep sense of wholesome character. Integrity. A commitment not simply to hard work and personal success and accomplishment, though there is plenty of that to go around, but equally a passion to be a part of the project of making this world a better place for all of us. The legacy of a true philanthropist. To build community on a solid and generous foundation. Whether in the great work of building the infrastructure necessary for the winning of the war, or in the rallying of energy and resources to build a new home for a deserving family right here in Pittsburgh.
Just to say that the apples don’t fall too far from the tree, and that even now, as we gather at the end of his earthly life, we can celebrate with thanksgiving the way he lives on in our midst, in and through your lives, and all you are, and all you accomplish, every day.
Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more. A word of faith, joy, triumph, victory. A song full of the promise of new life and life abundant fully transfigured and eternal, as we share with Christ in his Easter resurrection. Some of the rich poetry in scripture and tradition will talk about death as “the old enemy.” But that’s really I think not quite right. As we affirm the precious character of human life and relationships, the love of two great marriages, the joy of being father and grandfather and great-grandfather, creativity, the breadth and depth of emotional and intellectual experience, the adventure and joy of so many activities. As Christian people we would simply affirm in this moment that death has no power over any of that. No power at all. Through the mystery of our baptism and through the power of what Christ has done for us at the Cross—in the words of scripture, “life is changed, not ended.” We move from strength to strength, in that greater life, the life of perfect service, that our heavenly Father has had in mind for us since the first breath and dawn and morning of the universe.
In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also. St. John in the 14th chapter.
As we commend S. Murray Rust Jr., into the care of his loving savior, as we affirm our bonds in Jesus Christ for this life and the life to come, we know that this man who was himself a great builder now takes his place in a new home of surpassing excellence. A place built and prepared for him of a grandeur and a glory and an abundance beyond anything we can imagine. The fullness of sharing with Christ. “That where I am, there ye may be also.”
As we express our friendship and sympathy today, acknowledging the sadness that comes with the passing of a life and a generation, may all that be embraced in a spirit of hope and expectation. That Easter not be every just a day on a calendar, but the condition and reality of our lives. As we are born in Christ in baptism, as we live, as we die, and as we are reborn in his image and presence, to live in all fullness in the place, in the mansion, he has prepared for us.
And it seems just right to me here this afternoon that Thatcher will sing for us this song of blessing. To be sign and reminder in it all of the Father’s deepest benediction for us, each of us individually, and as we would reflect on those memories as family and friends, Which would be the spirit to touch our heart this morning as well.
Again, may our Lord bless and keep you.