Funeral sermon for Horace Preston Schmidt, Jr.

Today is the day when we lay dear Horace to rest.

We mourn—but also we celebrate, as we give thanks for the life he lived.

We grieve—but also we remember that the faith Horace professed affirms that the death of our mortal body is not the end of life, but a passage to new life, life forever in God. Life is not ended but changed.

I appreciate Linda’s tribute to Horace, her recollections. I’m still a bit of a newcomer, although I first met Horace a number of years ago. He was a friend to many but for me, at least, he wasn’t that easy to get to know. He was in some ways a quiet man, and I was still getting to know him.

But what came through to me very clearly as he neared the end of his life was love. Horace was a man who loved, and who was loved.

He loved his family. I’m not going to try to name every family member as a newcomer for fear that I’ll leave out somebody somewhere down the line, but you know who you are, and you know that he loved you.

He did love Betsy with all his heart. He did so love his grandchildren. Sons and their wives, sisters. He was a family person.

He loved Bristol: the community, the business community, and the setting on the Delaware River. He loved sitting by the river and enjoying that view.

He loved music. And he loved his Philadelphia sports teams: the Flyers, the Phillies, the Eagles.

I think he must have loved plaid shirts.

And I heard that he loved pork roll. And taught the last priest here to love it, too. Though it took some time. It seems that she was unfamiliar with our regional delicacy and was not impressed when he ordered it at their breakfast meetings week after week. But he was his usually steady self, and he persisted until finally she was won over, and became a fan herself.

But to be serious again. Horace also loved the church. And he loved this church in particular. And he served as rector’s warden at St. James for more than 20 years. And that word warden must seem kind of strange to those of you who are not Episcopalians, since here in America wardens are people who run prisons. But that’s not what we’re talking about.

The position of churchwarden comes down to us as part of our heritage from the Church of England, and the rector’s warden is a key leader with a lot of responsibility.

Horace was always there for St. James. Dragging tables and chairs out for parish picnics, working the grill. Showing up for the monthly dinners to feed hungry neighbors. And showing up as a steady, calming presence through many challenges—challenges faced by all churches in these times, but by this church in particular.

So Horace was a man who loved, and who was loved. By his family. His friends in the community. And by his friends here in church.

And, of course, Horace was loved by God. God loved Horace fully and completely, for his goodness and despite his flaws. Because none of us is perfect. And it’s through grace that we manage to be good, imperfect though we are. It’s through grace that we manage to love.

And love is what it’s all about.

So the faith that’s expressed in our prayers today says that God is love, and that our love for each other is a participation in God’s love for us. Love is the thing that connects us, that gives our lives meaning and gives us a glimpse of the face of God, even at times when we have trouble seeing it for ourselves.

We see God’s love for us manifest in the birth, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We see it in the gift of earthly life, and in the promise of eternal life. Resurrection life.

Of course, loving someone as much as Horace was loved makes us vulnerable to loss. And so there is such sadness here today. There has been such sadness all this past week.

We grieve, knowing we won’t see this kind man again, and yet at the same time we rejoice. We’re thankful for his life, for his faithful witness, for his love, and we trust now that he’s gathered into the loving arms of the God who created him.

A child of God, called back to God. To his final home. To a place of peace where one day we hope to join him.

To a place where God will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more. Mourning and crying and pain will be no more.

God is love. And love never ends. And Horace is held in that love now. Amen.

Preached at St. James the Greater Episcopal Church, Bristol, PA.