Friday, March 24, 2017

Our Service Celebrating the Promises of God and the Life of Phyllis Manley

Below is the sermon I preached during the funeral service for our sister Phyllis Manley. You can find a podcast of the entire service, including Donald's memories of his mother, on the Cove Presbyterian Church Podbean page. 

You now, before I became the father of a little white shichon, I never realized how walking a dog early in the morning is a great time to think. I mean, it's dark and quiet and you sure don't need to worry about making conversation, and so I've discovered that it's about the best time to plan out something I might need to do or say.

And so, yesterday, as I was walking Coco Chanel around our neighborhood up on the hill, I was thinking about what I was going to say this morning about Phyllis. And I came up will all kind of stuff. I mean, I thought about her determination, you know, how determined she was to learn and how that moved her to take advantage of every opportunity she had to know more. And I thought about how dedicated she was to her friends and to her students and to her church and of course to her God. And I thought about how devoted she was to Hugh and to Mark, Donald, Ruthann, and of course the baby, Suzann and of course to all the grandchildren. Now as we were walking down Brightway, all this was on my mind.

But the more I thought about it, the more each of this ideas, well, they just didn't seem adequate. Of course, they were all true. Good night, I think we'd all agree that Phyllis was determined to learn as much as she could during her time here. As I told the family Thursday afternoon, personally I was always impressed by how smart she was and how, if I was teaching a class and she was there, she was always listening and thinking. And as to being dedicated, I think we all know that Phyllis put everything she had into everything she did. And without a doubt, she was devoted. And my gosh, Phyllis just plain loved her family as much as anyone I've ever known. And she worried about Hugh having to do so much to help her. And she always was bragging about you all. And so, all that stuff I was thinking about, man, it was right on the mark, but with Phyllis there was something more.

And as we were turned on Euclid it hit me. Something that Donald mentioned in his memories. One word that really captured who Phyllis was, and here it is: Phyllis Manley was feisty, but in the best possible way. And I think her feistiness shaped both what she said and what she did. I mean, Donald, what did you say? She was funny in an ironic way. Man, you hit the nail of the head. For example, something Hugh, you talked about on Thursday, you know, how, instead of telling her that you loved her, you started to say, "I adore you," and when you asked, why she didn't say the say the same thing to you, she said something like, "I adore God. I adore Jesus. And you haven't made it to their level. And so I love you." I'll tell you, that's what I consider feisty, especially when you’re saying that to Hugh Manley.

But you know, more than in what she said, I think you could best see what they used to call spunk and pluck in what she did. My goodness, to start college in her forties, I'll tell you, that's really something. And to go to class all day, come home, make dinner for the family, get the kids bathed and off to bed, and then to study until 1:00, 2:00 in the morning, that's feisty. And Donald, I saw the eye roll a couple of times when Phyllis was in a class I was teaching. And with her work, she took what she did seriously, and she knew she had something that her students to know, and that's why she had the jocks, who took Home Economics because they thought it was a cake course, why she had them sweating over a sowing machine, trying to get a seam straight. And as to her devotion to her family, well, I don't know many people who, when her husband was working at the pool in the even, would pack up food and dinner and hike over to the park so the family could share a picnic supper. You see, what I'm talking about. Her determination and dedication and devotion was all shaped by her inborn feistiness.

And I'll tell you, the reason I mention all this isn't just because part of the reason we're here is to
 remember our sister Phyllis. No, I have two other reasons. First, right now, we facing a time of separation. Now I'm not saying that this is a difficult time because it is, and that everyone here isn't sad because we are and that after all this is over, Hugh and the kids and grandchildren won't need our help and support because they will. Still, what we facing is a time of separation; that's all it is, which means it's temporary. You see, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, we know that we've been cleanse and we will raised to new life. And when we are, it’ll be into a new heaven and a new earth, one where the one pain and limitation will be gone. And take it to the bank, Phyllis will be there, cooking dinners, reading books, and rolling her eyes if someone says something foolish. Now, that's going to happen. And the more we remember Phyllis, the more we tell the stories, the more we share the memories, the more we're keeping her alive in our minds and hearts until we see her again. Now that's one reason for remembering who she was.

And second, well, I think our world would be a better place  if we all could work a little of Phyllis's feistiness in our lives. I mean, imagine if we all had her determination to be everything God created us to be, you know, to make the very best use of the gifts he's given us. And imagine if we all had her dedication to the work we've been called and equipped to do, regardless of what that work is. And imagine, just imagine, if we all had some of the devotion she had to her family and friends, if we could convey to our spouses, to our children, to our grandchildren, to our friends and to our God that they are loved and they could feel that love by both our words and actions. My gosh, imagine what we might see happen within our families and within our communities and congregations, my goodness, even within our country. It staggers the imagination.

I think we'd all agree that God gave Phyllis a lot of gifts and abilities. But more than that, he gave her some attitudes that really defined who she was, and I'm talking about her determination and dedication and devotion. And without question, those traits made her special to those who knew her. But let's never forget that one word that seemed to shape everything else, a word I know and y'all know, even my little dog Coco knows, because she heard me say it yesterday morning as we were walking down Euclid. Brothers and sister, Phyllis Manley was feisty.

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