Permit me to paraphrase singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg:
leader of the band is tired and his eyes are growing old
his blood runs through our instruments and his song is in our souls
lives have been some poor attempts to imitate the man
just a living legacy to the leader of the band
They say that the most important lessons of discipleship are
caught, not taught. In other words, we tend to infect those around us with our loves and passions by the way we
speak and live our lives. As I thought about this eulogy over the last week or
so, I have come to see afresh and anew how profoundly I have been affected by
Dad’s passions, and how many of my present day loves were either modeled for
me, or given to me by this exceptional man.
Jesus. He loved the stories about Jesus, the stories that Jesus used to tell
and especially the way that Jesus had made known to him personally the love of
God the Father. Dad had a life-long aversion to, and hard-fought battle with,
cranky, tight-shoed legalism. And in the last few weeks of his life, Dad
delighted to recount the story of the Shepherd who left the ninety-and-nine to
rescue the one straying sheep, and Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. Dad loved
stories of grace, and stories Jesus,
the very embodiment of grace.
church and the gathering of God’s people. He was involved in Navigators
Bible-studies and discipleship in college, ordained as a deacon in the
Episcopal Church, and routinely opened our home for Bible-studies, prayer
meetings and youth group gatherings. As a young child, I often went to sleep to
the sound of the saints singing in our living room, or the muffled sounds of
heartfelt prayers. We once hosted a record-breaking 130 junior-highers in our
home for a youth-group gathering when Dad was serving as a volunteer staffer.
the Bible, and what the prophet Jeremiah called, “the old paths.” Dad was
“sweet old school” before there even was
such a thing. As a kid I loved leafing through the well-worn pages and many
underlined verses of his Bible. He loved the poetic cadences of the King James Version,
prayed faithfully through the Book of
Common Prayer and treasured the reverent rhythms of liturgical worship.
Dad loved to teach. When I was in
seventh grade Dad started a Bible study with a few of my friends and me. Bible
study with seventh graders. Who wouldn’t
want to do that? And what could possibly go wrong? Dad, as only Dad could do,
convinced us squirrely pre-teens that it was possible for us, aided by the Holy
Spirit, to read, study and apply the Bible ourselves.
Dad’s patient directions and skillful explanations resulted in the conversion
of one, and the launching of two of our number into full-time vocational Christian
ministry. Thanks, Dad.
C.S. Lewis. Some of my earliest and most treasured childhood memories are of us
kids either seated in Dad’s lap or leaning closely into him on the couch as he
read to us (and I believe re-read to
us) The Chronicles of Narnia. I often
thought of Dad as I imitated him with my own children. Dad loved not only the
content, but the clarity and artistry of Lewis’ style and I think he felt a
kinship with certain elements of Lewis’ own life and spiritual journey.
Dad loved two-wheeled
vehicles (motorcycles) careening at high-speeds down dirt roads and up mountain
trails. Before Dad bought me my first motorcycle, I would ride behind him with
my hands jammed into the pockets of his corduroy jacket for warmth. I remember
quite vividly how I would press my helmeted head into his back while chanting
to myself, “I do trust my dad. I do trust my dad” as he would skillfully lean
the bike full-throttle into sharp corners. It was Dad who showed me how to coax
my motorcycle’s transmission into the small neutral zone between fifth and
sixth gears enabling me to coast down Brown’s Canyon above Daroga Park faster
than if the bike was running and in gear. Thanks, Dad.
books and learning. One look at Dad’s amazing library of books, Great Courses
CDs and DVDs would amply demonstrate that Dad was indeed “a life-long learner.”
He possessed a wonderful ability to integrate the books that he was reading
into everyday conversations. And up until a few weeks ago he was still strategizing
how best to sync up a desktop, laptop and tablet computer using cloud-based
storage. As Mom put it so well, “Your dad is always thinking about something.”
words and plays on words. Computers weren’t computers, they were percutors. I can still picture Dad, in
response to a question whose answer was quite obviously “no”, saying “Does a
chicken have hips?” And his funny way of twisting words and phrases lives on in
his children and grandchildren today. And I love to hear his sense of humor
echoing and still entertaining in the conversations of our family gatherings.
Two of my present day loves are the
direct result of Dad’s generosity and wisdom. When I was a poor college student,
Dad visited me at WSU. When he saw that my cheap little acoustic guitar was
becoming unplayable, he drove me over to a music store in Moscow, ID and bought
me one of the finest instruments I have ever owned. I still have the guitar
today, and often when playing it, I remember not only Dad’s loving provision,
but the strangely critical role that guitar music played in bringing me to my
current vocation as pastor and teacher.
but certainly not least: In the spring of 1980 my wife, Ellen, reconnected with
Mom and Dad in their Edmonds home. Ellen and I had been friends for several
years, but she had some lingering questions about our suitability for a more
serious relationship. Thirty-five years later I am still thanking God for using
this wonderful man and his sage and timely wisdom to convince my sweet Ellen
that we were indeed well-suited for
Church. Bible. Grace. Teaching. Books. Two-wheeled vehicles on dirt tracks. Learning.
Humor. Music and my beautiful wife. Thanks, Dad for infecting me with your
loves, and for directing me with your love to Him who is love. Today, I am proud to be your son, your namesake, and to
bear, albeit imperfectly, a family
resemblance. And I pray that when my time comes, I will be able to say as you
did a few days ago: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I
have kept the faith.”
(Genesis 1:26–27) Then
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have
dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over
the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps
on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image
of God he created him; male and female
he created them.
The glory of God is so
great that it requires the combined efforts and collective image bearing
capacities of two genders: male and female. And although
image-bearing is implicit in all that we do as men and women, certain offices
and duties are uniquely weighted with revelations of God’s goodness and love.
Take for instance those who bear the office of Mother.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they bring into existence something that bears
resemblance to them and yet is completely unique and separate from them.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they bring children into existence knowing in advance that they will be
difficult, selfish, ungrateful and who at times will be so busy with their own
agendas that they will fail to adequately stay in touch.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they bring children into existence, not for what
the children can do for them, but rather as objects of their intense love and
unflagging devotion; little people upon whom to lavish affection,
encouragement, provision and praise.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they lovingly perform a thousand selfless deeds for
their children accompanied by a thousand gifts of service and are happily
content to have one or two acknowledged and praised.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they willingly take responsibility to wipe their
children clean from the filth that their children continually produce or glop
on themselves from without and are quite helpless to do anything about. And
this they do no matter how frequently or ceaselessly their children smudge,
smear and soil themselves.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they teach, and then re-teach, and then re-re-teach
the same lessons over and over again, patiently committed to teach the lessons
as many times as it takes for the wisdom to take root in the hearts of their
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they become fiercely angry and ferociously intimidating
towards anyone or anything that would seek to do harm to their little ones.
-Mothers bear the
image of their Creator when they, just like the Lord God, are perfectly easy to
please, and forever impossible to satisfy. Ever eager to acknowledge and praise
the smallest of their children’s victories and accomplishments, and ever
wanting for them more than they are able to ask or imagine.
And so, moms, we sons and daughters thank you from the
very bottom of our hearts, not merely for your myriad acts of love and service.
But for the countless ways that you displayed and revealed to us the
big-hearted goodness and never-ending love of our Creator God. To Him be all
glory and praise!
As Oscar Wilde observed, and
many others have similarly noted, “You can judge a man by the quality of his enemies.” You heard that right, enemies. And the Bible, far from
guaranteeing that everyone will love and admire us as we follow Jesus, actually
assures us of just the opposite; it declares that we will have haters and
persecutors, and that they will, well…hate and persecute us.
David begged for divine deliverance from the lion-like
men who would tear him to pieces.
Paul described one particularly hurtful persecutor as
a “thorn in the flesh.”
And even Jesus assured his disciples (including us modern disciples) that following him leads surely to the painful betrayal of some of those close to us.
May God grant us grace
to be considered dangerous enough by the Enemy of our souls to warrant a few
quality enemies to hound and harass us.
Thank you Peter, and thank you again graduates for inviting
me to give your commencement address today.I’m especially honored that you asked me to do this after only one year
teaching at the River Academy.I’m sure
future classes won’t make the same mistake.
We come now to that part of the ceremony where I, on behalf
of the school, am expected to impart to you some final, sage advice that will
guide and inspire you as you leave this place and commence the next chapter of
And you, seniors, may be wondering: After all the topics
we’ve already covered in class; after all the books we’ve read and discussed; after
all our over-caffeinated conversations at Café Mela; after all the pearls of
wisdom and knowledge our teachers have showered upon us over the years … what
could Mr. Koch possibly say that we haven’t already heard?
Let’s face it: you’re right.In our Humane Letters class alone we spent nearly 250 hours this year
sitting around tables wrestling with the ultimate questions of life, the
universe, and everything.Those hours of
instruction have been multiplied time and again in all the classes you’ve taken
during your years at the River.
And I can’t help but think that if we teachers have taken
advantage of all our time together, then certainly we must have already given
you all the tools and advice we can think of.We’ve already said all we can say to prepare you as you go from this
place.And now, sadly, the clock has run
out.And our time together is over.So it goes.
But perhaps there’s something more to say.One last bit of instruction.A final exhortation.And so, I’ve chosen to send you off with these
words of ancient wisdom: This above all else, guard your heart.
Above all else, guard your heart, because your heart, says
Solomon in Proverbs 4, is the wellspring of your life.Whatever is in your heart – your desires, your
goals, your fears, your affections – the orientation of your heart will
determine the course of your life.