Monday, October 20, 2014

Burial Office

Patrick Christopher Malloy
February 12, 1946 – October 9, 2014
October 20, 2014

Good evening, and grace and peace.  It is very much for me an honor and a privilege to share this evening in this service for Patrick Christopher Malloy.  To remember Pat’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 church, 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.  With love to you, especially, Vikki, and Brendan and Alyson, Megan and Brian and your girls, who have known here in the morning of their lives such a loving grandfather.  And so many rich memories.  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.

As I was thinking about Patrick in preparation for this sermon I remembered a story in the Bible from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.  In the 16th Chapter.  Paul and his companion Silas have come to the city of Philippi, the largest city in the region of Macedonia, and as a result of the disturbance caused by their preaching and miraculous healings they are arrested and thrown in jail.  The night passes, as they are there behind bars they sing hymns and pray together.  And then suddenly there is a great earthquake, and all the doors and locks are ripped from the walls of their cells.  When their jailer sees what has happened he is overcome with fear—because in that Roman system the penalty for a prison guard who loses his prisoner is summary execution.  But as the dust settles, Paul and Silas call out to him not to worry.  Don’t be afraid!  They haven’t gone anywhere.  And he is so overcome with gratitude that he embraces them and then takes them to his own home, where they eat with him and spend the remainder of the night.  They speak with him, pray with him, and in a miracle of the Holy Spirit this jailer and his family become the first Christians in Philippi, the nucleus of a church family that Paul would later say in his letter to the Philippians was especially dear to his heart.  In the first chapter of that Letter he says to them, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  It is right for me to feel thus about you all,” he says, “because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

And so, let us say this evening, how from the faith of one man in the Department of Corrections, the Holy Spirit moving through him, the seed is planted of Christian faith and life that spread in wider and wider circles to touch so many lives, with generosity and care and love.  A way to think about our friend Patrick.  I remember how when he toured me around the halfway house that he was in charge of up on the North Side not long after I had arrived here back in 1994, he introduced me to several of those who were there.  At first I thought they were colleagues, fellow workers, because of the tone of respect and affection in the exchange.  Then discovered they were, we would say, residents of the facility.  But you could tell just in the interaction what kind of man Pat was.  And how that affected in such a positive and meaningful way those around him.  Small moments.  One relationship at a time.

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 Patrick both in the hospital and at home. 

I was remembering glimpses, moments.  Some many years ago, some very recent.  Lunches.  Ballgames.  Quiet conversations.  Vestry meetings and church gatherings.  The pride he felt when he looked at his kids.  The tributes that so many of his colleagues paid to him at that great retirement dinner at the Blarney Stone.  (Although Pat certainly put a new spin on the word retirement in the years that followed!)  Of course the importance of his family.  So impressive to me as a husband, a father.  Megan posted one of her wedding photos on Facebook—Patrick escorting her down the aisle.  A beautiful moment, and that wonderful smile!  And how much joy in being a grandfather!  Remembering when the girls were baptized.  What a great day . . . .

Perhaps just right to recall the word from scripture, in 25th chapter of St. Matthew, the Parable of the Talents, when the Great Lord returns to see how well his employees have done with the tasks of stewardship that he had given to them.  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  A great word to remember today.    Well done, Patrick.  Thinking of the courage, and I think that really is the right word for Patrick in these past years, as he has had so many adversities.  Great courage.  Now, “enter into the joy of your master.”

Patrick’s family selected the readings for this service, and I want especially to highlight the reading from St. John’s Revelation, the 21st chapter, and the wonderful vision revealing the great consummation and completion and victorious conclusion of God’s great plan for us and for all of creation.  Every tear wiped away.  Every sorrow comforted.  Every burden and every pain lifted away. And the one who created us and who sustains us:  “Behold, I make all things new.”

This is the promise of the savior who died on the cross to cancel our sins and who rose from the dead on Easter morning as the first sign of new life and life eternal in his name.  A promise for each of us even in these difficult times, when we encounter suffering, pain, loss.  “Behold, I make all things new.”

In the sure and certain hope of life in Christ Jesus, what we all have to be about this evening, 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.”

Patrick reminded me from time to time that he was of Irish descent.  I’d like to invite us all as we remember him and as we commend him to God,  to stand and turn to the blue hymnal, and let us sing together a wonderful prayer and affirmation  of Christian faith, and a lovely Irish tune: hymn #488.  “Be thou my vision.”

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