Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Saturday, April 22, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia. It was part of the memorial service for our brother Harry Hutch, Jr. You can find a podcast of the entire service on the Cove Podbean page.
You know, I don’t think it’s ever easy saying goodbye, especially to someone whom you love. And even when you know you’ll see the person again, it’s still hard to let them go. Now I’ve told this story many, many times, but I think it’s appropriate this morning. Back when I was a little boy, we lived in Norfolk, Virginia and my dad worked for the Newport News Ship Building and Drydock. And every now and then, he’d have to make a business trip up here to Pittsburgh. And even though I knew he was only going to be gone for a couple of days and I knew that he was coming back and I knew that when he came back, there’d be something special for my sister and me in his suit case, I still remember how sad I was as I stood at the airport fence and watched my dad get on that airplane. You see, saying goodbye is always a sad thing to do.
And of course, that’s especially true today, as we say goodbye to Harry. And even though I hope y’all believe that what we’e facing right now is just a time of separation; in other words, that the day is coming when God’s going to recreate his universe and when that day comes, we’ll be able to join those who have died in a brand new world, one where there is no pain or death, and even though I hope you know that we’re going to not only see Harry again but to spend eternity with him, right now we still feel sad, don’t we; sad to let go.
But I’ll tell you, God didn’t leave us to deal with this by ourselves, because believe me, there’s something we can do right this minute that will sort of help us through the sadness we’re feeling. Now before I say anything else, let me be clear, there’s nothing I can say that will made the grief go away. Still I believe there are two things that can keep us pointed forward until we see Harry again.
You see, first, we can simply believe; we can simply trust in God. And although sometimes that’s made overly complicated by minister-types like me, I’ll let you in on a secret, it’s as simple as one, two, three. You see, one, we can simply trust that Harry was and is and that we are and will always be in the hands of God, in his loving and gracious and merciful hands. Now this we can believe but you know, even if we have questions and doubt, that doesn’t change the fact that Christ was born and he died and he was raised, something we’re remembering this time of year, and that doesn’t change the fact that we are still in those same loving hands. I’m telling you, that’s one thing we can believe.
And two, we can also trust that just like God led Harry through death toward new life just like one day, he’s going to lead us. Remember the Psalm we read a little while ago. Well, that God who like a shepherd takes such good care of his sheep, has already lead Harry through the valley of the shadow of death. God has lead Harry home; and when it’s our time, he’s going to do the same thing for us. This is the something you can believe too.
And three, we can trust that we’re going to see Harry again. Now I want you to imagine that, we’re going to see him again in a new heaven and new earth. And he’s going to be there, probably putting together a model of maybe a tank or personnel carrier. And of course he won’t be alone. His mom and dad are going to be there, and of course, so will Betty, and they’ll be having a great time together. And I’ll tell you something else; Harry will be able to drink as much pop as he can hold, because all those former issues will be gone.
I’m telling y’all, we’re going to see him again, and that’s something we can also believe. You see, I told you it was as easy as one, two, three. I’m telling we, as we move through the sadness, we can believe, we can trust. That’s first thing we can do until we see Harry again.
But you know, that’s not all. You see, second, starting this afternoon, we can remember Harry. Now, I’ve got to admit that I didn’t know him as well as y’all, But you know, y’all knew him, and so starting today, y’all can remember.You can remember all the things he accomplished in the past. I know for me, I’ll remember the kindness and the gentleness I saw in him every Sunday morning when he and Betty left church. Y’all can remember. But even more than that, y’all can keep her memory alive by telling the stories about Harry that y’all know so well. And please don’t forget the funny ones. And I’ll tell you why I think that’s important. Every time you share these stories, in a very real way, you’ll be keeping alive all those experiences and qualities that made Harry so special to those who loved him. You see, you can simply remember; that’s the second thing we can do and continue to do until we see Harry again.
Like I said, saying goodbye isn’t easy. And I don’t believe that God expects us to do this without feeling sadness, even though we know that the separation is temporary. No, saying goodbye is still sad. But after the initial sadness eases. I want to challenge y’all to do the two things we talked about this morning. In other words, when you leave here this morning, I want you to make the decision the you’re going to trust God and to remember Harry, until you see him again.