(watch here: https://youtu.be/ehekvcd_tOU)
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’
Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’
[Jesus said,] ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
It is with heavy hearts that we have gathered here this morning to remember one of our community’s beloved pillars, not only in this congregation but the wider Superior community. Virgil loved this community, loved serving this community. I’ve only been in the community for just under a year now but from what I hear from several of you, Virgil was quite a special man. I mean, he had to have been digging around in so many mouths in this community for so many years! So many cavities…so many root canals…so many scoldings for not brushing or flossing! Not to suggest that dental hygiene is lacking in this community more than others but it’s a career that exposes a lot of bad habits with little to no appreciation. Few people actually like going to the dentist so it takes a truly special person to keep a cheerful, almost sardonic attitude about it all year after year. Yes, good ole Doc Everson had a fortitude to be admired. It probably stemmed from his 18 years serving in the Marine Corps in various ways, not to mention having served in two major wars during that time.
Virgil loved serving his country and this community. He was generous in giving to several organizations and knew everyone around town. I like the story about how if he’d share a banana or apple and would always give away the fruit that was in the better shape. He loved animals and golf and, oddly enough, trapping mice around the house with his Rolo candies! I could’ve used his help last night when I was working in my office and who should scurry by my door but a little, furry friend. I like to think Virgil somehow had a hand in that, just saying hi!
When Virgil wasn’t serving his country and this community, he was probably busy serving his family. Good thing he had Virginia to help keep four boys and a girl in line! From the sounds of it, you all kept him on his toes with your mischief! But as in all things, Virgil took it in stride and dished the mischief right back at you. Nothing like touching the end of a warmed cigarette lighter to the tip of your nose to teach you how it works, right?! Yes, Virgil was just as mischievous, if not more, as all of you.
But beneath that mischievousness was a steady kindness and strong faith. Virgil was committed to his faith and to our congregation. I know how it grieved him so not to be able to come and worship with us in person over the last several months of quarantine. He was right there at the door, waiting to come in, when we opened again for in-house service back in July. Our hearing devices weren’t working quite right but he was oh, so glad to be sitting with us again. God, country, community, family…the four pillars of Virgil’s life!
As they should be for all of us too. Men like Virgil teach us what life looks like with such pillars. A life of joy and contentment. A life of fulfillment and integrity. A life of honor and humility. Perhaps most importantly, a life of humor! We can’t forget that glint in his eye. Virgil loved his life and everyone in it. Virgil had a deep and abiding hope in life. I appreciate the Scripture passages that the family chose to lift up this morning because they reflect the hope that was in Virgil. In that passage from Revelation, we hear of the new heaven and the new earth that arose from the coming of our Lord and Savior. Jesus made all things new! He conquered death and sin and in so doing gave us hope again. We don’t have to be afraid of death. We don’t have to sin. We can live in him. We can live for him! Virgil knew this. He lived in and for Christ and his life reflected that. He gave so much love, so much kindness, so much wisdom, so much joy…so much life to the world! That was Christ within him, the same Christ living within you and me! The same Christ that transcends life and death. Virgil will always be with us through Christ!
And I think it’s safe to say that Virgil wouldn’t want us to grieve his passing. He’s simply gone on ahead of us to prepare a place for us, much the same way Jesus did as we heard in the passages from Luke and John. Virgil would want us to keep hope alive at all cost. Heaven knows he kept it alive for so many years! Let us remain hopeful. Let us give thanks for Virgil’s witness, all the years of steady assurance, kind generosity, and humble service. Thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen