Thursday, July 31, 2014

Burial Office, Thomas Anthony Resignalo

July 31, 2014
Thomas Anthony Resignalo
September 22, 1936 – July 12, 2014

Good morning, and grace and peace.  It is very much for me an honor and a privilege to share this morning in this service for Thomas Anthony Resignalo.  To remember Tom’s life in all its richness, to honor him for his life and service, to his family, husband, father, son, and brother--his community, his country.  And an honor especially for me to share in the sorrow of loss with family and friends,  with all of you, family and friends.  As we offer together the prayers of the church, not just as we say the words but as we gather the faith and life and witness of the whole Christian family and offer the deepest knowledge and desire of our hearts to almighty God.  As we hear the words of scripture, the psalms, the lessons, the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Who as we turn to him has forgiven our sins, and in his mercy and love and by his cross opened the way to the fullness of life, and eternal life.

A friend in the 12 Step Movement years ago taught me this saying: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”  And for all kinds of reasons that phrase and saying has come back to me over the past few weeks, and especially in my thoughts and in my heart in those last days with Tom over at the VA Hospital.  I was remembering glimpses, moments with Tom.  Back in the 90’s, almost 20 years ago now, an afternoon when he gave me and my son Daniel a tour of the National Guard Armory over in East Liberty.  A good deal of affection in that, his pride in his work.  After his own substantial career in the armed forces, in the Marines, the Army, several tours in Viet Nam, time in the National Guard, to continue in the service of those who serve.  I remembered the time I spent with him and with you, Patrick, when you were completing your God and Country scouting project.  All of us enjoying the Pirates together—which I know was a great family passion and a very special Father/Son experience.  Even as a love for the Pirates has for so many of past years been full of heartbreak!  I was actually always so impressed with Tom as a father and a husband, his sense of dedication, commitment, care.  Again, “the main thing: to keep the main thing the main thing.” 

He was I think always what we might call a “Catholic at heart,” the deep religious tradition of his younger years.  His love of the sacraments.  His sense of God’s presence in the midst of everyday life.  And I was and am so very thankful for the ministry of the Roman Catholic pastoral staff at the VA and for the generosity and hospitality of our friends over at St. Augustine’s in Lawrenceville, with their recognition and support.  Thinking of his love for his family here at St. Andrew’s.  Such a faithful presence for so long, all three of you, in the life of this congregation.  In the love of so many friendships over so many years.  One of my memories of these past few weeks was of how Tom and Ann and Patrick were so faithful in that 7 a.m. service every Ash Wednesday morning, before school and work.  And we are here this summer getting ready for the annual festivities of the Church Picnic on Sunday after Labor Day, remembering all those years when Round Up Sunday meant “Cowboy Tom’s Chili.”  All fun.  Wonderful memories.  Wrapping around the challenges of these past years, which have been increasingly difficult I know for everybody, and especially the last few months.  As we’ve kept you all wrapped in our prayers.  And as we continue to hold you in love and prayer.

So again Jesus: “Whither I go, ye know, and the way ye know.”  You know where I’m going, and you know how to get there.  Jesus is talking to his disciples about something more than what we might call our religious opinions and theories, our interpretations, our languages and cultures, theological positions or understandings of various issues and concerns of the day.  What Jesus is talking about is a deeper kind of knowing than that.  The kind of knowing that we talk about when we say that a child knows his mother.  It’s about relationship, connection.  About the word we use in the Church with real meaning and sincerity: about faith.  About being in relationship with God deeply and securely.  “I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also . . . .  I am the way, the Truth, the Life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by me.”

Paul says in Romans 8 that no matter how great and powerful the enemy may seem, we are “more than conquerors” through Christ our Lord.  That no opponent can prevent the good work he has done for us.

In the sure and certain hope of life in Christ Jesus, what we all have to be about this morning, with all the sadness that there is—what we all have to be about is to learn to live every day of this short and precious life in the love of God and of one another, serving God and one another, knowing that to be such a privilege.

Jesus said, 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.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and bring you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.”  “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord.  He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

Tom began his military service as a Marine, and they tell me that there is no such thing as a “former Marine.”  So it seems appropriate I think that we would have the traditional Naval Hymn as our Office Hymn this morning.  It is in part a prayer for those who serve, and that prayer seems right, as a reflection of Tom’s life.  But even more it is a hymn that calls our attention to the Eternal Father who rules over all, with power and majesty, and with the deepest compassion and tender love.  In whose hands we all live, day by day, and who promises at the end to bring us home to himself.  The main thing: to keep the main thing the main thing.  Please stand, and let us sing together hymn #608, in the Blue Hymnal.

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