The Funeral of William (Bill) Gill – April 10, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

THE FUNERAL OF WILLIAM (BILL) GILL

Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 35:1-5  Revelation 21:2-7; John 15:9-17

 

Christ Episcopal Church

Tacoma, Washington

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Rev. Janet Campbell

 

 

We gather

on this Wednesday

before Palm Sunday,

just 10 days

before we will celebrate

the resurrection of Jesus

and the risen life

that is Easter’s gift.

 

We gather to mark

the end of the earthly journey

of our brother Bill,

who,

having died to life

in this world,

 

is already living into

the fullness

of Easter’s gift . . .

 

already rejoicing

in the eternal Easter

of God’s love.

 

 

 

And so,

even though

we are “officially,”

according to the Church’s calendar,

in the season of Lent,

 

we are dressed today

not in Lenten purple

but in Easter’s white . . .

the color of resurrection.

 

And so,

although the baptismal font

is dry and barren during Lent,

 

we have filled it today

with the splashing waters

of baptism,

for it is through baptism

that we are born into

risen life in Christ.

 

So we have honored Bill’s ashes

with the waters of life,

clothed them

with the white garment of baptism.

 

 

 

 

And although the Paschal Candle,

symbol of the risen Christ,

the light that dispels all darkness,

was put away

for Lent,

 

it has risen

from its hiding place

to lead Bill’s ashes

into this assembly,

this body of the Risen Christ

of which he has been a member

for so many years . . .

 

where we, all together,

abide in God’s love,

 

where we today grieve

the sorrow that is ours,

and give thanks for the joy

that is Bill’s . . .

 

abiding fully, now,

with the God

whom he loved and served

all his life.

 

 

Yes, the Lenten crown of thorns

still hangs over us

and Lent’s bare branches

are a background

to gifts of Easter flowers.

 

All of this saying that,

unlike the seasons of the Church’s calendar,

life’s seasons are not clearly delineated,

all is transitory, interwoven,

 

there are countless dyings

before our physical death . . .

and countless flowerings into life

before we flower from the last death

into eternal life.

 

And all of this happens

in God’s love.

 

In the beautiful times

and the trying times

that come to each of us in life,

 

(and Bill had many of each

and perhaps more than his share

of the trying ones)

 

In all those times,

he made his home,

no matter what,

in God . . .

 

abiding in God’s love.

“As the Father has loved me,

so I have loved you;

abide in my love,”

said Jesus to his disciples,

 

What a glorious invitation.

 

Every morning,

at his desk,

before the start of his business day,

 

Bill sent his RSVP

to that invitation

as he prayed

the Morning Prayer of St. Philaret . . .

 

the prayer printed

on the inside cover of

today’s bulletin.

 

A prayer for inner serenity

and trust in God,

that he might move through the day

with peace of soul,

instead of anxiety and stress.

 

A prayer for guidance

and knowledge of God’s will,

that God might guide his words and deeds,

and help him bear

whatever the day might bring.

 

 

A prayer for humility and wisdom,

that in all his dealings with others

God might bring blessing.

 

And in that intriguing

last sentence,

a prayer of complete

abandonment to God:

“Direct my will,

teach me to pray,

pray you yourself in me.”

 

For we do not really know

how we ought to pray,

and in our times of need

and not-knowing,

it is God who prays within us.

 

 

Who was this St. Philaret,

whose simple, humble

everyday morning prayer

worked its way

into Bill’s soul?

 

Vasily Mikhaylovich Drozdov,

Metropolitan (or Bishop) Philaret

of Moscow and Kolomna,

from 1821 until his death in 1867 –

the most influential figure

in the Russian Orthodox Church

throughout those years.

 

 

Surely Philaret’s accomplishments

were the fruit of his simple prayer,

a prayer still bearing fruit

throughout the world . . .

 

. . . in Bill’s life,

in fair and kindly business dealings,

in love of family,

in deep and enduring friendships,

in service to his faith community

and to this city.

 

 

In addition to the Prayer of St. Philaret,

Bill kept at his desk,

on various pieces and scraps of paper,

sayings he found useful . . .

 

When he cleared them from his desk

at his retirement

an artist friend arranged them

in a marvelous collage

you can see at the reception.

 

The principal saying . . .

 

“Keep the main thing the main thing.”

 

The guiding principle

in his marriage and in his parenting,

in his life.

 

 

Advice to Vestries

mired in the minutiae

of parish business . . .

 

“Keep the main thing

the main thing.”

 

Along with, in the lean times,

the deficit budget times,

(of which Christ Church had several

in Bill’s time)

 

“It’s the faith factor folks!”

 

Challenging the parish

to be daring,

to pass the budget anyway,

because what was lacking in dollars

would be made up through trust in God . . .

 

 

There will be many kudos for Bill . . .

for his work with organizations

serving people in need,

especially

all he did to support Nativity House

from its very beginnings,

for his service on community boards

in the arts and education,

for his leadership at Christ Church

and in the Diocese of Olympia . . .

 

But he would not want or need them.

 

 

Despite all his successes

in business,

and his contributions

to the life of this church

and this city,

and the fact that this day,

this service of worship,

is his funeral,

 

I can hear Bill saying,

“I am not, today,

nor have I ever been,

the main thing.”

 

“The main thing is love . . .

love of God,

love of neighbor.”

 

Bill would be glad

if we would praise God

for what God was able to do

through him.

 

For surely, whenever God wondered,

“Whom shall I send,

and who will go for us?”

 

Bill’s ready response,

no matter the task,

no matter the difficulty,

no matter the probability of success,

or the risk of failure,

 

“Here am I, send me.”

Not from a sense

of any special abilities of his own,

but from his trust

that God would make up

anything lacking in him.

 

“Here am I, send me.”

 

That response of self-offering

is at the very heart

of that prayer with which

St. Philaret and Bill Gill

began every day . . .

 

and in which they now live.

 

It is their gift

to us today.

 

And we might honor Bill best,

we who are

his family,

his friends,

his faith community,

his colleagues in business

and civic life,

by praying that gift together . . .

 

(you will find it

on page 2 of the worship bulletin)

 

 

The Morning Prayer of Saint Philaret

 

O Lord, grant me to greet

the coming day in peace. Help

me in all things to rely upon

your holy will. In every hour

of the day reveal your will to

  1. Bless my dealings with all

who surround me.

 

Teach me to treat all that

come to me throughout the day

with peace of soul, and with

the firm conviction that your

will governs all. In all my

deeds and words, guide my

thoughts and feelings. In

unforeseen events, let me not

forget that all are sent by you.

 

Teach me to act firmly

and wisely, without embitter-

ing and embarrassing others.

Give me strength to bear the

fatigue of the coming day with

all that it shall bring.

 

Direct my will, teach me

to pray, pray you yourself

in me.

 

Amen.

 

 

website by Branded Look LLC   |   photos by Winfield Giddings