St. Augustine of Canterbury Anglican Church
Bishop Peter F. Hansen+
Sermon for Burial Mass for Bill Kincheloe
March 14, 2018
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. John 14:1-4
They [are] before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. Rev 7:13-17
MANY biblical words speak of a holy rest we may look forward to at the end of this life. We pray for God to grant our loved ones a sweet release and a well-deserved rest. We inscribe headstones with the words: “Rest in Peace.” The Epistle to the Hebrews promises that “we who believe enter into that rest” Heb 4:3
What is this rest we speak of? The Revelation of St. John speaks of a sweet relief for those admitted into the presence of God, never to thirst or hunger again, nothing going to ever give them pain, to be fed by Christ Himself, who will lead them to living waters coming up from a fountain. God Himself wipes their tears away. Sweet relief; welcome rest. The burdens of this world, all the worry, the grief, the sorrow, every wound and every injury, physical, spiritual and emotional, are gone forever. Not even the memory of them can harm us—not any more. It’s a blessed state. Rest.
Bill earned that rest. I have called his the ‘titanium generation.’ They lived longer, worked harder, climbed higher, did more than any previous generation, never seeming to wear out. They saved the world. In Bill’s War, he defended the skies above the American MidWest against all marauding crop dusters for his short two year stint in the US Army Air Corps as an air traffic controller. But with his official military career over along with WWII, he served our nation and its military for the next 55 years or so with his inventive mind thinking up means by which we may end a war quickly and bring our boys home sooner. I never met a more patriotic guy. Of course, the very idea of things blowing up in clever ways made him positively giddy. I think something in Bill never really grew up, despite his proper gentleman exterior.
And Bill was a patriot in the best sense. He was not xenophobic. Growing up in his corner of St. Louis, Missouri, with his Jewish neighbors in the great majority, familiarity with the other had a great effect on Bill. Not only did it make him appreciate people of other cultures, as he was taught at home, but we know that Jewish students always excel, and for a bright guy like Bill, that meant he had to sharpen his skills. Competition was one of the challenges that brightened his eyes.
Not that he always had to win. But he always got the job done. While the brightest and best in his field sought to cobble together winning teams of engineers in order to outstrip one another, Bill loved to assemble the rejects from other departments, like the fabled dirty dozen, and with his odd-ball humor and curious methods of motivating others, got them all to be better than they were. If something went wrong, he would quickly say, “Blame me. It’s my fault. Now, let’s get on and figure out how to fix it.” A little pride crept in when Bill heard that one of his reject workers was avidly sought out by other team leaders after a stint with Kincheloe.
There was one thing Bill could not fix. His married life was one of joy and amazing harmony with Jean who seemed custom made for this mad scientist from the Show Me State. But when her health failed, and for years she was confined to a motorized wheelchair, he couldn’t cure her except through their mutual affection and understanding. How do you understand a woman whose medical scooter sports a bumper sticker that reads: “Gun Control means Using Both Hands”? Bill could. It broke his heart when she died in 2003. He’s been waiting for this day ever since.
Bill loved God. I could count on one hand the Sundays he’s missed since Jean’s death. He’d roll up before I got here, smiling to himself that it made me squirm to see him here before me. For quite a while he’s been impatient with his aging process, and I was certain on the Sunday right before his fall that such an incident was immanent. We could see it come. I don’t think he minded it at all, only that it took so long in coming. He bravely stood here and read the Epistle three days before he died. Just like always.
One of Bill’s tenderest memories was in sitting by his father’s bedside as the great man died. Always the Victorian gentleman, Papa now lay in weakness, life departing him. And he asked Bill if he might trim one of his fingernails that was split, and was bothering him. When Bill lovingly did so, with Bill’s hand on his heart, Papa breathed his last.
At Enloe last week, Kate and Glen sat by Bill’s side in the wee hours, life seeping out of the 92-year-old patriarch. As the medical crews kept trying to provide something for him, all except peace and quiet, Kate asked her dad if he needed a nail trimmed. When he said, Yes, she could tell all the medical staff to back off. He was going with grace, and it was okay to just let him. He was blessed in passing, and we were blessed to have known him. We were all blessed.
“Whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die,” Jesus said. Well, if Bill isn’t dead, where is he? His body is here, but he isn’t. He has no further residence here. Where did he go? Something in our minds, our spirits, our souls aching for a better end of the story than what our eyes inform us, tells us that this is not all there is. There is more to it. There has to be. We don’t cease to exist. We go on. There is life after death, in fact, it’s not really death as we think of it at all.
God said so, and we believe Him. Jesus said He is preparing a place for us, where His Father in heaven has a home with mansions built just for us. He said He will go to prepare that, and then come back to take us there. When we get there, it’s told to us by Isaiah, that the new world will be so vivid, so wonderful, so much more what we think of as living, that our minds will not really dwell down here at all, won’t come back to seek what we had here. We will not long for a return to earth. That’s why we don’t have the dead return in spirit or conjuring tricks. Why would they want to come here? Only to see their loved ones, and I think they can see us, and they love us better than before.
So this is it: Bill has found his way home. Not just found a way to escape this world of pain, to ‘cross over’, to ‘pass away’ – phrases people use for something they don’t understand. He’s home. That mansion prepared for him is a pretty wonderful place.
Jesus told His apostles He was going away, and He marveled that they didn’t ask Him where. He assured them He was going and needed to depart, but since they knew the way there, He would see them later. They challenged Him on that, admitting that they had no idea where He was going, nor did they know the way, or how to get there. It gave Him a chance to make that wonderful proclamation, a cornerstone of our faith.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
This is the phrase we use as Christians to claim that we have the best, really the only way, to God’s heaven. We do. It’s not wrong to think there is a best way, a true way. That way is not a way, not like a secret door or series of turns on a series of paths. It isn’t knowing the password or having secret tattoos on your hands. It isn’t having given a bunch of money to the cult leader, or living a perfect life in terms of some list of rules. It isn’t being born a member of a special race. It isn’t praying three or five or ten times a day. Go ahead and do these things, but they don’t get you to heaven. Just signing up as a member of a church isn’t your gate code. But Bill knew the way. Do you?
Jesus said it, and we try to turn it around, or make it more difficult than it is. “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Does that mean Christian? Maybe, but not really.
It means that every human being stands before one judge. The judge is Jesus. The judgment used to be measured by our deeds, the good and the bad. But it wasn’t a scale that let you pass if your good deeds outweighed the bad. Rather, if there was something, anything on the bad side, that was enough. Sorry. You failed.
God knew that wasn’t going to get us to heaven. So He made up the difference. That’s how His Son became the Judge. His Son was our sacrifice. He died and changed the whole issue. Now it’s Him, not us, that qualifies us for passage to that kingdom. It’s yours if you want Him. He is the way. You need Jesus, and that’s your way. He is the way.
And He is the truth. This isn’t an ‘anything you want to believe’ kind of religion. It isn’t really a religion at all. God wants you to come, and provides His Son to make the way. Now we need that Son, so we have to learn the truth about Him. There is one truth. There can’t be two. He isn’t the avatar. He isn’t merely a prophet. He isn’t just a teacher. He died and rose again. That’s enough for anyone who’s wanting to know if this is God’s Son. Know that truth, and you know God loves you.
And He is the life. John wrote that in Him was life, and everyone who comes into being gets life from Him. His Spirit gives life to us, and we receive His Spirit through Jesus. He has sent the Spirit into the world, into us. This is life eternal to us, now. Life that goes on after what we see in death. Christ’s life becomes our life and we live because of Him. Have that life, and you will always live.
The Way, the Truth, the Life. Bill knew these, and with his wonderful voice he praised the God of glory every chance he had in this sanctuary. He loved the worship. That is born out of such knowledge that Christ is making you a home, and Bill is home because he knew the way. So, may we know the way and take it.
We were blessed to know Bill. We are blessed to know where he has gone.