Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Little Song of Ours

Sermon preached at the thanksgiving Eucharist for James T. "Buddy") Young, Sr., 1914-2008, a bleoved member of the Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene, September 20, 2008: Matthew 5:13-16

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

The Gospel reading we just heard uses two images—salt and light—to describe how we are called to bring in the kingdom of God.

Buddy especially loved the light imagery, which is why we have this particular reading today. Buddy was a light and he loved the light. I’ll say more on that in a bit; first a few words about salt.

Buddy was also salt and he loved saltiness; he brought the saltiness out in others. He was spice in the life of all of us.

Buddy Young was never anything but gracious, but he loved to tease, with a twinkle in his eye. And he expected this teasing to be reciprocated; he could get as well as he could give. His humor and his ability to create an easy “atmosphere of humor” was one of the things that most endeared him to us. It was one of the ways he made friends quickly and easily. He wanted people to smile about life, as he seemed always to be doing himself.

Saltiness, however, is not only about humor. Salt, in the right quantity, brings out the flavor of things. This, too, helps describe what it was like to know Buddy Young. He made life more flavorful. Life was simply better in Buddy’s presence.

It’s hard to describe, but he had an ability simply to help you like life more when you were with him. Part of that was because he not only left you plenty of room to be yourself when you were with him; he actually helped you be more who you were. Again, it’s hard to describe, but nevertheless a very real experience that I dare say most of us had.

Buddy was also a light to the world. He was “this little light of ours.” It is said that “saints are people the light shines through.” In this regard, Buddy was a saint. This is not to say that he was perfect, none of us is. He was as human as the next person and would want me to say so. But he allowed the light to shine through him more than most of us, and, like his saltiness, he encouraged that light in others.

It is, of course, the graciousness and love of God that shone through Buddy. That was the source of the light we experienced through him. He allowed God to use him for good, and God did use him for good, to the benefit of all of us.

Buddy knew above all things that the love of God was indeed good news, good news for all people. So we celebrate that good news today as we give thanks for his life.

And just as important as knowing this good news, Buddy acted on it, as we are all called to act on it, with graciousness, with humility, but also with passion.

Besides “salt” and “light,” another image we might use for how we are called to live out the kingdom is song, and, of course, this is more than appropriate for Buddy, because he loved to sing. He was a member of this Church for at least eighty years and I believe he sang in the choir for most, if not all, of them. He loved to sing. It was his favorite way to help proclaim the good news.

So we can hear Jesus say, “You are a song for the people, let your song be heard that all will hear the good news and believe they are loved beyond their wildest dreams.”

Buddy’s life was song and he helped all of us sing, whether we can carry a tune or not.

In all these images—salt and light and song—we not only have a description of our experience of Buddy, but also our experience of God if we let it be. For God is the salt of our life, the light of the world, and the song of good news. As Paul says in Romans, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that message is the message Buddy would have us hear today, and allow it to shape our lives for good.

Thanks be to God for this wonderful man, for the good long time we had him in our lives, and for the example of graciousness and unconditional love that he was. Thanks be to God for this little salt of ours, this little light of ours, this little song of ours.

This little song of ours, I’m gonna sing it out,
This little song of ours, I’m gonna sing it out,
This little song of ours, I’m gonna sing it out,
Sing it out, sing it out, sing it out.

At the end of his life, Buddy frequently said things like the quote at the end of his obituary, “I’ve been blessed with so many people.”

Thank you dear friend for being a beautiful person yourself and blessing us.

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