The Pastor Challenge


The Pastor Challenge

The Assist Pregnancy Center's Walk-Run-Ride for Life is coming up in May and this year I am challenging myself in order to challenge all of you! I am challenging myself to ride a "Metric Century" (100 kilometers) in four hours, and if I can ride farther than I ever have at one time before, I challenge all of you to support me more than ever before. I set my goal this year at $5,000, and our team (Lutherans for Life) at $7,500! If I can do it, you can do it. Assist helps so many mothers and babies, and they are expanding their facility to help even more - and so need our help more than ever, especially coming out of this pandemic. So please help! CLICK HERE to go to my sponsor page to sponsor me, or you can sponsor anyone else who joins the team, or the team as a whole.

Will you step up to the challenge??

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Memorabilia

Here are some pictures of the memorabilia we had on display for Dad at his funeral.


On this board are, of course, some pictures of Dad and Mom together. But also their marriage certificate, pictures of my Dad with his dogs (he loved 'em!), and with his grandkids. My wife and I looked for more pictures of Dad with us, his kids, from when we were little - but we realized they are all on slides! We didn't have any prints. We'll digitize those slides in the future so we have those pictures, too. Also, at the bottom are several pictures from these precious last few years, Dad with us and in his Memory Care. 

Finally, there's a bookmark on display, on the left side. A bookmark? That's odd! Well, it has the words "Little things mean a lot" on it. That was a special song to my Dad and Mom, and one we played for Dad a lot his last week with us. Go to YouTube and look for that song sung by Kitty Callen. Give it a listen. It's pretty good.



On this board is my Dad's High School diploma and a picture of his baseball team and the letter that he earned. He was a pitcher on that team. We also found his Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from "The Augustinian College of Villanova," and some of his Army training certificates, his honorable discharge, and his dog tags. Pretty cool to have all that.


Here's his baptism certificate that we found after he died. (For the significance of this, read or listen to the sermon I preached for him, posted earlier in this blog.)


And here is the back of his flight jacket. A number of years ago, the jacket was rotting and falling apart, so he cut the back off and framed it. This was his squadron in World War 2, the Army Air Corps 13th Emergency Rescue Squadron, operating in the Pacific to find and rescue downed aviators. My son will be inheriting this.  :-)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Legacy of a Father


My nephew, Rev. Adam Douthwaite; my brother, Rev. William Douthwaite; me, and my son Robert, who served as crucifer for his grandfather's funeral.

A lot of people wonder what their legacy will be; what people will think about them after they die. Some people devote a lot of time to this, but the judgment of history and time is something that proves quite elusive to control. 

Here is my father's legacy. Not one that he set out to make for himself, but the gift of God. Three pastors (so far) from him. He was often asked if he was a pastor to have two sons who were pastors. He would reply, "No, I'm not a pastor, I just raise 'em!" :-)  For the record, he was an electrical engineer. My son (so far) is following in his steps.

If you'd like to read my brother's thoughts on this day, click here.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Funeral Sermon


Here is the sermon I preached at my Dad's funeral. Again, if you want to watch and listen instead, here is the link to the video my brother made on his cell phone.

16 August 2019
St. Mark Lutheran Church, Ridley Park, PA
Funeral Sermon for William Douthwaite

Jesu Juva

“The Promise of Nothing”
Text: Isaiah 55:6-13; Romans 8:26-39; Philippians 1:18b-26; Matthew 28:1-10

I wrote this sermon when Dad was put on hospice for the first time; when we were told he only had ten days to live. That was three and a half years ago! God gave us the gift of these extra years, which were so precious. So, with a little editing . . .

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If you go with us to Mount Hope cemetery today, you will see those words etched into my father’s headstone. Those were his words. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord

And I think the older he grew, the more precious they grew, because it seemed like he was being separated from everything and everyone else. All of his immediate family has been gone for some time now. When you’re the youngest child, I guess that’s to be expected to some extent. But that has been the case for quite some time now - not just that they were all taken from him, but that they were so soon. Too soon.

Of course, the separation that hit him hardest was when his Nancy was separated from him. Being ten years older, he said, he always thought he would go first. A not unreasonable expectation, we would say. But that our Lord called her home frist, and almost 15 years ago, is another indication of what Isaiah said: that God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts not our thoughts

Then for the past almost six years, he was separated from his home - from the home he had lived in for almost 50 years, the church, here, that he was a member of for over 50 years, and from some of you that he had been friends with for 50 years. That grieved him too. He loved it here. He loved all of you. He didn’t want to be separated from you, but knew . . . but knew that it was needed. A bum hip, a tired body, and a failing memory were making it too hard to stay.

So Dad, I think, was a lot like the apostle John in this regard. John was the last one too. At the end of his life, he was separated from his home, in exile on the island of Patmos. In the book of Revelation, John sees visions of the martyrs who went before him - and I always think he saw his friends in that group in heaven wearing white robes. Peter, his brother James, Andrew, and the rest - they all went before him, too. 

But then Dad was like the apostle Paul, too. For Paul’s words from Philippians that we heard were his words: My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary . . . Dad didn’t know why staying was necessary; he wanted, like Paul, to go home. He said it many times. All the separation was hard for him. Hearing another friend had gone before him - especially his good friend Jack Buss - was hard for him. He wanted to go to that place Jesus had gone to prepare for him.

So how very, very precious these words of Christ for him, and for us today. As he, and we, live in the midst of a world of separation: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing. Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. Nothing. Not even a failing memory.

And the answer why is very simple: we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. More than conquerors through Him who was separated from His Father for us; forsaken on the cross for us. More than conquerors through Him who loved us so much that He entered into our death with us, enduring the condemnation of our sin for us. More than conquerors through Him who then brok the seal of the grave for us and rose to life again. More than conquerors through Him who then baptized us into His death and resurrection, that we might rise too. With Him. And never be separated from Him. Baptism is that inseparable bond where Jesus binds Himself to us, so that nothing can separate us from Him. Nothing. Yes, His Word and promise combined with that little bit of ordinary water is . . . that . . . great.

And Dad knew it. Jesus had planted that faith in his heart and made it grow and flourish over the years, as Dad was fed by the Word he heard preached here by so many pastors over so many years from that third pew on the left - right in front of the pulpit. That was his pew. And as his faith was strengthened by the Word of Absolution he heard pronounced here so often, and as he was fed by the Body and Blood of the Lord at this altar. Jesus was holding onto him.

And that’s why a few years ago, Dad wanted to make sure of his baptism. One day he started thinking about the fact that while he thought he had been baptized, and was pretty sure he had been, he didn’t have a certificate, and all that had witnessed it were already gone. The church wasn’t even there any more. But he wanted to be sure. It was really important to him. To have the nothing of baptism - the nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus - that was so important to him. 

And so my sister started making phone calls and investigating and following up . . . and finally found a pastor who had the records from the old church that had once been there, and Dad made a copy of the page showing that he had been baptized on April 20, 1924. And just how important that was to him is shown by the fact that he kept that page in special folder all its own, which he kept in his fireproof lock box with all his other really important papers.

Ironically, while we were looking at some of his old papers on Tuesday, we found his baptism certificate - it was on the display you saw when you came in. He had it all along. He just forgot. Toward the end, he forgot a lot of things. But Jesus never forgot him. Jesus never forgets his children.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Which is why he could say so often, with Paul, and pray for the Lord to take him home, to that place prepared for him. It wasn’t because he was so strong, so faithful, or so good - but because he had Jesus’ promise. Nothing can separate me from you, Bill. Nothing. Tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword . . . or dementia? Nah. I beat it all. I am your Good Shepherd. You shall not want . . . and you shall dwell with me in my house forever.

So now Dad has been separated from us - but just for a little while. The Father who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, has now answered Dad’s prayers and called our father home. As He graciously gave him all things here in this life, so now still graciously giving him all things - including rest and peace and no more pain, as we await the day of the resurrection of all flesh. Our grand reunion with Dad and Mom, Bill and Nancy - Uncle Bee - and All the Saints who from their labors rest (LSB #677).

So we will do as Paul said, and rejoice today. That’s not the same as being happy. We’re not happy to be here today! It’s better than that. It’s that because of Jesus, because of His death and resurrection for us, because of His promises, because of His forgiveness . . . we can rejoice even in the midst of sadness and separation. Because He conquered them. Because He is greater than them. Because We Know that Our Redeemer Lives (LSB #461).

And we’ll also do what Paul says in another place (1 Thess 5:18), and give thanks. Thanks for Jesus and all that He has done for Dad and for us. But also thanks to God for giving us this man for so many years, as father, grandfather, and great-grandfather; as uncle and friend; as His blessing to us.

So thank you, Father, for this our earthly father, and friend. For giving us a father who loved us, especially when that love showed itself as a leather belt across my disobedient and rebellious butt. For giving us a father who took us to church faithfully, who had us baptized, and showed us the importance of faith and being in the Word. Who showed us by devotions every night after dinner, lighting a candle and reading the Scriptures.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a father who showed us what love is as he took care of Mom in her last days. For giving us a father who prayed - the image of that I will always remember is of him sitting in his recliner in the morning, before work, before the sun came up, with his Bible on his lap, his eye closed, and his hands folded.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a father who was a sinner and showed us how important your forgiveness. For giving us a father who struggled, to help us learn from him and giving us a chance to care for him and love him and understand that when we are weak, you are strong (2 Cor 12:10). For giving us a father who wasn’t afraid to cry, and who taught us the importance of family.

But thank you most of all, Father, that You put him in Your family. That You adopted William as Your son. That You baptized him, redeemed him, forgave him, and at 2:17 am Monday morning, took him home to be with You. And thank You for the confidence that we now have in Your Word, not only that he is with You, but that we will be too, one day. That the “nothing” that was so precious to him is also for us. That it is true: Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing.
For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Friday, August 23, 2019

Life Petition

Lutherans for Life has posted a petition in support of life as a gift from God. Go check it out and sign if you agree with it.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Couple Days Away

Well, the funeral is over, everyone is back home. It's been quite a couple of weeks. Emotionally, physically, mentally wrung out. We're going to go away for a couple of days and try to give my daughter at least a little, mini vacation before school starts. It feels quite weird to do so, I must say! So soon after the funeral. But we need to relax a bit. I'll post some more pictures when I get back. For now, here's a link to a video of the funeral my brother took on his phone. So the quality isn't the best, but hopefully you'll be able to hear it all. It really was quite a wonderful service. :-) The first time - and maybe the only time - my brother and I and my nephew will all lead a service together and preach together. A fitting tribute to my father, and the blessing he was to us all.

Miss you, Dad.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Funeral Day

It's early. No one else up yet. My body always gets up early, so I am up. So a few early morning, funeral day thoughts . . .

Everyone arrived safely last night. Got the rooms squared away. A little time to visit.

Today will be a whirlwind. Setting things up at the church. Going over details for the service with my brother and nephew. The emotion of closing the casket. The service - hope I make it through my sermon. The committal - that will be tough. Visiting other family graves. Lunch - that should be relaxing. Then back to the hotel to relax and remember and smile for a while.

It won't be a big funeral, Dad outlived almost everyone he knew! But family, nieces and nephews that knew and loved him, some old friends from church. Kind of appropriate - Dad wasn't a big crowds kind of guy. Liked his space. Sitting at home with Mom. Petting his dogs.

Tomorrow will be the start of a new chapter, no doubt about that. And we'll see where and how God leads. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Today first.

Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness to us. To Dad.
Thank You for all that You did for him through his life.
Thank You for calling, enlightening, sanctifying, and keeping Dad in the one true faith.
Thank You for making me his son.
Thank You for making me Your son, so I know I will see him again.
Thank You.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Obituary

Here is the link to my father's obituary on the funeral home web site, if you'd like to read it.

Also, here's a picture my wife had on her phone that I love. It just shows my Dad really well, I think. Happy. How I want to remember him.


He loved them to the End

As we were driving to Philadelphia yesterday to make arrangements for my father's funeral, I was thinking that though difficult, this is all part of loving my father to the end - even to the taking care of his body until the day of resurrection. So we visited him in memory care every day, we sat and stayed with him while sick, and we held his hands as he breathed his last. Now we will lovingly lay his body in the grave, and we'll continue to love him to the end.

So I then thought of Jesus on the night of His death. In John 13 we hear: when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Do you see how Jesus reverses things here (as He always does)? We love our dying loved one to the end, but Jesus is the dying one loving his loved ones to the end! He is the one taking care of us. And He'll continue until there are no more ends or endings, only eternity. And then He'll love us forever.

How cool is that?

If you're at Saint Athanasius next year on Holy Thursday, you'll probably hear this in the sermon. :-)

And the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13).

Indeed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

+ Dad +

How long, O Lord? We got our answer. 2:17 am, Monday morning, August 12. That is when my father fell asleep in Jesus. My wife and I and my sister were able to be with him his last few hours here. It was rough. It seems so long ago already. Yet the sadness is still fresh. We read Scripture and hymns those last couple of hours. I tried to sing, but couldn't. We commended him into the hands of his Saviour. The same hands that baptized him when he was just over a month old, now came to take him home when he was 95 years old. Rejoice! Cry. Smile. Remember. Lots of remembering.

When my Mom died we still had Dad. Now that Dad has died it is a new time in life. One that will take some getting used to.

The Memory Care where my Dad lived the last three years is a place called Sunrise. They have lots of buildings here in Virginia. The aides were very good with him, and many of them came in and wept with us. They really cared for him. That's what we liked about the place. Many of them became like a second family to him and to us.

After my father's passing came the waiting with him and caring for his body. My dear wife at my side the whole time. What would I do without her? When morning broke (pictures below) a Hospice Nurse came and did her necessary work. Then a funeral home came to take his body. He will be transported to Pennsylvania where he was born and raised and spent most of his life. We'll have a service at his church, St. Mark's in Ridley Park, where we grew up and where he is still officially a member (over 50 years!), and then he'll lie beside my Mom awaiting the glorious resurrection on the Last Day.

Yesterday we also tended to some necessaries - while waiting for the men to come and take the hospital supplies that had been rented for him, we started cleaning out his room. Again, rejoicing, crying, smiling, remembering, crying with the afternoon shift of aides coming in . . . It was a really long day.

Today it is up to Pennsylvania to meet with the funeral home. My Dad had most of the details pre-planned, but still a few things to do and papers to sign. Then to the church to meet with the Pastor there. My brother and I (I believe) will conduct the funeral for him. We didn't want to with my Mom, but both of us wanted to with my Dad. Interesting. And then back home. So another long day today.

Finally, some pictures for you. First, the final sunrise at Sunrise, looking out his window there, as we await the Son to arise, return, and raise all the faithful to life with Him.




And a few of my Dad at Sunrise:


Seeing his granddaughter off to college. He really, really loved his grandkids!


Meeting his great-grandchild Elijah (from Florida) at his 92nd birthday party. He would up with six grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. So as we would tell him, that makes him pretty great!


All together for Father's Day.


Petting Danny Boy, the Memory Care cat. Sadly, Danny moved out the last year my father was there. He really liked Danny. One day he said: "All my life I've been a dog person, and here I went and got myself a cat!"  :-)


With his daughter. She had a special place in his heart. His pet name for her was "Suze." Not sure why, it just was.


Getting together for communion. Had more than a few times at his kitchen table there, along with his devotions every day.


My wife and I would often take turns visiting Dad, to make sure he got a visit nearly every day. But sometimes we got to go together, too, and "double team" him!


Birthday boy! This was his 94th, I believe.


Father's Day pizza. He loved his pizza! Pepperoni, always.


His last Christmas with us. He didn't really "get" unwrapping and receiving his gifts this year, but the present he LOVED was his two granddaughters playing Christmas hymns on their violins for him and singing along. We sang a lot that special day.


I love this picture of him. How I will remember him. Making me cry even now . . .

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Update on My Father

How long, O Lord? We read that in a psalm this morning. How often we ask that of the Lord in all kinds of circumstances and situations. We tend to be an impatient people.

How much time will the Lord give my father? We do not know. He is still with us. He is strong, but it will be when the Lord decides. We had a nurse practitioner come in yesterday and offer to increase his morphine "to slow his breathing." I was the only one here at the time, and that sounded funny to me. He wasn't breathing overly rapidly, so why would we want to do that? I told her to wait to speak to my wife (a registered nurse) first before changing anything. So later, my wife spoke to her and she was much more blunt with my wife as to the reason: to speed things up (let the reader understand). No! That's not how we do things. It a good caution to us: people often try to make things that are not good sound good.

In situations like these - and I've dealt with them often as a pastor but not so often as a son - we aim always to care, never to kill. The Lord may grant him healing and then we will rejoice in the added time we have received as a gift. Or, the Lord may call him home to his eternal rest and joy. And then we will rejoice in the life promised and now given. But we will wait for the Lord (another good phrase from the psalms!). And even if it takes a long time and is difficult, it is good.

A friend of mine, a former parishioner, and brother pastor Chris Yang and his wife Jenny came to visit Thursday night. My dad supported him through seminary and while he served as a missionary in Asia. They came by to see my dad here a couple of years ago when they were on home service from Asia. It was very nice of them to come by and speak the Word of God to my father and sing to him.


But today, another day of vigil with him . . .

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

As a Father Lay Dying

Note: I do not actually know how close my father is to falling asleep in Jesus. His hospice nurse informed us today that she did not believe it would be long. So I wrote down some thoughts as I sat with him today . . .

Sitting at the bedside of your of dying father, many thoughts cross through your mind.

You see the ravages of sin.

You see a man who served in World War II.

A man who always wondered how he got so lucky when he married his wife.

The man so strong when I was young, now so frail, fighting for every breath.

The man who took care of my mother when she herself lay dying with cancer.

You think about all this man did for me when I was growing up.

This day is like the Tower of Babel - he is trying to communicate with me, but I cannot understand what he's trying to say.

You see him looking . . . but what is he looking at?
What is he thinking about?

He's comforted by my being there. I know that. He reaches out for me. Often. Wants to know I'm there.

He's tired. And not just from this sickness, but from 95 years of life.

Most of me wants him to have his rest, to fall asleep in Jesus. But part of me wants him to stay.

His father died before I was born - how was that for him?

He's the youngest in his family, and the last to go. Soon a whole generation will have moved on. It's a new time in life for me and my brother and sister. We're the oldest now. Or soon will be . . .

The last six years, caring for him, I've learned a lot. But I learned a lot from him my whole life.

He taught me how to play golf, and to be honest doing so.

He taught me how to build with wood, and how to garden.

He taught me doing repairs around the house.

When I was in Junior High, he once drove me two hours to a band competition after I was late and missed the bus for it.

I remember him praying in the wee hours of the morning before going to work.

I remember family devotions after dinner, every night.

I remember the special, handmade valentines he made for my mom.

I remember stringing Christmas lights with him, then for him. And decorating the Christmas tree every year.

He served in the church in just about every role he could, including congregational president, head elder, trustee, and more.

I remember sitting out in the backyard with him after dinner. He'd sometimes smoke a cigar and we'd just sit and talk.

I remember the surprise retirement party we threw for him.

I remember how he taught me that family always comes first.

The last six years haven't been easy, but I'm glad I got to give back some of the care he always gave me.

Like when I was in college and he was unemployed my last two years. He was just about down to his last dollar, but he got me through - and never even told me how close it was until years later.

He kept a plaster of paris handprint I made for him when I was 5 or 6 years old. It's still in his dresser - we saw it tonight!

It's funny the things you think sitting by the bedside of your dying father . . .

Thank you, Lord, for giving me such a father.

Lord, let at last your angels come . . .