Sep. 9, 2017 – Burial of Col. Bruce France Meyers – sermon

Posted by on Sat, Sep 9, 2017 in Burial Rite, Sermons

Sermon preached at the celebration of the life of Colonel Bruce France Meyers

September 9, 2017

It is a gift that honors Bruce France Meyers, and his place in our hearts, for us to hear that more personal side from his son—our thanks to you, Boots (and Admiral Bridge)! Having only known him some four and a half years, I’ve gotten to see that long-life-distilled character, with the years having washed away all of the extraneous attempts to be anything or anyone but himself. It is our tradition in the Episcopal church to be aware of how Christ’s gospel is revealed through us, and so today we reflect on that aspect of Bruce too, not as something separate, but integral to his whole life.

Our reading from Ecclesiasticus is in praise of those men who embody the highest ideals, and notes how the record of their virtue becomes the incentive for descendants to emulate. Their wisdom and acts inspire history, and that history becomes a wisdom lesson for others to come. How fitting a scripture for Bruce! We couldn’t help but recall him as we heard those lines; men known by their valor, “who gave council because they were intelligent,” who led their people by “their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore; they were wise in their words of instruction.” So very much of his life was about conceiving of better ways and teaching them, about drinking deeply from knowledge and putting it to use; be it rising through the ranks and serving some 28 years in the Marines or in his career as an attorney. Even in that he sought to pass wisdom on, serving as Associate Dean of UPS Law School at one point, and as he put his legal skills to work on behalf of St. Michael’s some years back. “The Colonel” as most of us referred to him, worked hard to equip himself for the best and highest use of his God-given life and gifts, and did so with tireless commitment and passion.

Our gospel reading today was proclaimed by retired Marine Corps communications officer and Episcopal deacon, the Rev. Brian Wright, who heard of a fellow retired marine’s death and volunteered to serve. (It seems that readiness to serve never abandons those Marines!) As I considered those words in light of Bruce’s life I kept returning to two things; the first is Jesus saying; “for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” We too are charged with that call, and Bruce’s commitment in service to others came from deep within his soul. I want to read you a few lines from his last book. He and his family arrived in Washington DC in 1960, and he was reassigned to the White House as an Aide-de-Camp, by personal request of then incoming President John F. Kennedy. His task was to escort Poet Laureate Robert Frost to all of the inaugural events. Kennedy’s orders were “You take good care of Robert Frost. Stick with him, and make sure his needs are taken care of.” (No, this is not the story of Bruce breaking and entering trying to find Mr. Frost!) So, they are en route to the first event;

After I picked him up, he began asking me questions about my Marine Corps duties, my education, and so forth. After about ten minutes of conversation, Mr. Frost turned to me and asked, “You seem to have a pretty good education and good experience. Why are you staying in the Marine Corps?” His tone imparted either a lack of understanding of the military or a put-down that being in the military was a less than desirable endeavor. I was immediately irritated by what Mr. Frost had asked or had implied by his comment and question. I suppressed my anger and finally composed an answer. I turned to him and formally addressed him, “Mr. Frost, I do what I do (being a Marine officer) so that you can do what you do (write poetry).” …in an apologetic way he said, “Bruce, you are right. You do indeed do what you do in order that I can do what I do.” …and from that point on we became good friends. It was “Bruce” and “Robert” from that point forward.

“I do what I do so that you can do what you do.” Service from his heart, imparting wisdom, and being humble and human enough to befriend the other and see the value in it. He took joy in this, and in real life. That he could relish the joy and love in life was not an endeavor lightly learned, having survived both the death of his wife and one of his children. But he did, and it was truly a delight to see how much he believed in love, how he reveled in it. From his immense love and respect for his wife Jo-Anne, for his children, and to his falling in love all over again in recent years—he thrived on love, and believed in it.

The second Gospel truth that stands out for me today is that Jesus says, “This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” Bruce spoke with me some about his personal faith, though sparingly —rather he acted it out; showing up in this front pew every Sunday that he was physically able to do so. Rain or shine, no matter what, and during my time of knowing him, coming to church began with taking his beloved dog Amy out for a walk around the grounds, and ended the same way. Even as his hearing worsened, he continued to be nourished by being active in his faith community. When he couldn’t hear the sermon, he’d pick up a copy to read on the way in. When he couldn’t hear the service, he knew the rhythms of the prayers and joined in; his strong voice setting his own pace with the words, and somehow compelling us all to join his tempo, no matter where we started. To the end he sought to connect with people, build friendships, tell stories. Members Bill and Cathy have lovingly driven him to church the past couple of years, and I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, them or Bruce.

It began because his faith was critical enough for him to act out by regular worship in community, that he sought a way to come when he couldn’t drive. He was enlivened by our belief that says this life is not the end, and he reinforced that belief week after week here. Sharing faith mattered to him, whether anchoring that pew at 8 AM on Sunday morning or lighting up with joy at the children’s pageant on Christmas Eve. Bruce’s faith was evident in his work seeking healing for other Marines with PTSD, revisiting the overseas sites of their worst moments with them, beating the ground with them, holding and hugging them, praying with them, and as he said, “lifting the bad memories from their backs.” Our prayer for him today is to commend his soul to God, knowing God has lifted all of the burdens of grief and loss, pain and battle, from Bruce’s back too, and he is indeed raised with Christ.

Amen.

© 2017 The Rev. Katherine Sedwick. All rights reserved.

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