Saturday, July 9, 2011

Memorial Service: James Vern Kennedy

Good afternoon friends, and grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I welcome you to St. Andrew’s on this warm summer afternoon as we would give thanks for the life of Jim Kennedy, as we would hear in scripture and in the ancient prayers of the Church the gospel word of the assurance of God’s continuing love, and of the promise that is for us in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we would express our continuing love and care for Pat, Lisa, and Vern and for all those who mourn the loss of such a great man.

Husband. Father and Father-in-Law. Grandfather. Colleague. Friend. Fellow-worker in so many ways in the mission and ministry of Christ’s Church. It is a privilege for me, and I know for our pastoral assistant minister Dean Byrom, and for all of us of St. Andrew’s to be a part of this today, to reflect these past few years as Jim and Pat have been a part of this church family, and I’m honored as well to share this service with my good friend and colleague Tom Phillips, rector of the Fox Chapel Church, where Jim and Pat also worshipped for a number of years, and I think both of us perhaps symbolizing and representing a number of churches in many places, east and west, north and south, where Jim and Pat and their family have contributed and shared in rich ministry in so many ways.

I know I was talking just recently to another friend and colleague, John Bailey, rector of St. Andrew’s up in New Kensington, who worked very closely with Jim some years ago as they developed the Stephen Ministry program when they were both at the Fox Chapel Church, and John was just so very effusive in saying how impressed he was with Jim’s faithful dedication to that work, to say that “it couldn’t have happened without him.” And John and Karen are away this weekend, but I know he is with us also in thoughts and prayers.

Certainly I have known Jim as a man of such great interest and engagement and desire to contribute, to make a difference. How even in the last months of his illness before his death last May he was so very connected and committed to thoughtful conversation, study, reflection. To talk some about his career and about his life in the church. To talk about things known and unknown, questions answered and questions still to be explored.

And just to notice that as we talked about the leaflet for the service here this afternoon we wondered if there was a “patron saint for chemists.” I couldn’t find that exactly, though that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. But Albert of Cologne, Albertus Magnus, revealed himself to us in that bit of research in a wonderful way, one of those early bridge characters in the first years of the scholastic movement and the renaissance, who was chiefly known for his somewhat controversial commitment to the co-existence of science and faith, rejecting neither one nor the other, and pursuing both with energy and enthusiasm. And that seemed just right for Jim. A man of faith, who was a man of inquiring faith, curious, skeptical, questioning, exploring faith. And a man of science, who was in his search for knowledge as well a man who trusted deep down in God’s love and God’s faithfulness.

In this I am so very appreciative of Peter’s reading just now from the Book of Proverbs, in the second chapter, a reading selected by Pat and Lisa and Vern, to speak of the man of wisdom: knowledge and understanding, grounded so completely in the service of God and sharing God’s love for a righteousness and peace among all people. That’s just right for Jim. Touching all the right notes.

As Christian people our Lord stands with us in the full integrity of who we are, and at our very best curious and questioning and creative, energized by the exploration and adventure. And at his Cross he drew us all to himself. In his death, reconciliation and healing.

Bringing restoration, and opening the gate of New Creation: sharing with us that reasonable and holy hope. That where he is now, there we might also be. Rejoicing in God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, we would today give thanks for Jim’s life, and we would look forward to the good things God has in mind for him and for us in the life of the world to come.

As we would remain seated, let’s turn to the service leaflet again, to the middle of page 4, and read together in unison Psalm 100.

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