Such a lovely room

Such a lovely room

Friday, January 27, 2017

for Stephen G. Smith

Steve Smith
Wisdom 3:1-5, 9
Revelation 21:2-7
John 14:1-6

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.

We often use that quote from Jesus to console people who are grieving someone whose faith journey we’re not sure about.  To offer the reassurance that there is room in heaven for one whose faith is known to God alone.

But Steve Smith’s faith was not known only to God alone.  Far from it.  As a priest, I often find myself visiting people in the hospital.  These visits mostly involve listening, hearing what someone wants to say to a person wearing a collar.  Whenever I visited Steve . . . well, yes, I heard stories, believe me!  But he also always asked me to pray with him.  He always wanted to take communion when I visited.  I could tell that his faith was interwoven into who he was, and the stories he told me.

Steve was a solid churchman, serving on committees, fixing things, passing on his knowledge, singing in the choir.  And he told me stories about all that.  But he also told me stories about his years in the army, negotiating the bureaucracy to ensure that the families in his care got what they needed, when they needed it.  And he told me stories of his years as a union leader, standing up for workers’ rights, while also talking people out of making hotheaded decisions.  Steve Smith was what most of us would call, “a good man.”  One who does what he can, wherever he can, to make the world a little better than he found it.  But I have a hunch that Steve’s goodness flowed out of his faith in God, and Steve’s life lived in the church.  He naturally wanted to help people when he could.

When I went to visit Steve at home one morning after Christmas, he asked Carol to go get a couple bottles for us.  She came back with the last beer and a bottle of hard cider.  He let me choose, and since I hate hard cider, I drank the last beer.  (As I told my wife later that day, when a parishioner in hospice asks you to have a beer with him before noon on a workday, you drink that beer.)  It was small celebration that I will never forget, sitting with him that day.  And of course, he asked, and I prayed with him before I left.

In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  Today I find myself more focused on that promise for you and me, than for Steve.  Because his faith was so obvious to so many of us, and his faith in God compelled him to do all sorts of things for other people.  Steve’s faith led him to work for those in his care, to stand up for those he represented, to be an exemplary husband and father, and to give his last beer to a priest on a snowy winter morning.

We can be confident that Steve has been welcomed into the arms of Jesus, where there is no suffering, where there are no tears, where there is no pain.  May God grant us the grace to know and trust that we too will one day join him in that place.


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