World Without End
Richard Rose Memorial
One Mile Park
The Rt. Rev. Peter F. Hansen, presiding
For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Phil 1:19-23
Richard was a member of our church, but an unusual one. He was unusual wherever he went. Being over 6-1/2 feet tall made him stand out. He had been long years in Pentecostal churches and now he attended our Anglican early service. He couldn’t drink our communion wine – any wine – as he never drank alcohol from childhood. His sense of humor was, well, funny. Igor the Horrible on one day, or whatever he wanted to be, it was fun, and a bit nutty. Nobody believed his monster bit. And he didn’t really want us to.
Many of our Anglican prayers are ended with the phrase, “World without end. Amen.” That struct our brother oddly and he asked about it. “Why do you say World without end? This world is going to end, according to Scripture as well as science. Planets don’t last forever.”
I was happy with the question. “That’s not the world it’s talking about. The Orthodox use another phrase, meaning about the same thing: ‘Unto the ages of ages. Amen.’ We’re both speaking about the afterlife, the world that will be. That world will never cease to be. Yes, we know this life, this planet, all our possessions, every inanimate object we can see or sense will one day be destroyed. We’re happy about that. This world is ruined. It’s beautiful, but it’s been spoiled and God needs to build another one, a perfect one – a world without end.” Richard was happy with my answer.
St. Paul was in trouble. He had been arrested, imprisoned illegally, and treated as no Roman citizen ought to be. But he appealed his case to Caesar, and so to Caesar he went. For years he was the guest of the Emperor, under house arrest, confined to dungeons at times, unwell and losing his vision. He kept correspondence up with the churches he’d founded, and wrote to Philippi that he was caught between two desires. To stay in this world, the world with an end, was attractive to him, as it is to us, for it’s all we know and we have work yet to accomplish. Paul was mission-driven, and he had whole countries yet to visit and plant more Christian communities. He felt a longing to see all his missions again. And yet, his life was threatened every day. While he was writing the churches, admonishing them to honor the Emperor and obey his laws, that Emperor was Nero. And Paul was in Rome.
So, death was near to Paul and he was not afraid. His longing to minister to his beloved churches wrestled with his absolute assurance that death held no fear for him – he was going to see Jesus, and live forever, and be without pain and disability. He was going to have joy forever. “to die is gain… having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Paul had troubled knowing which he wanted more.
Richard had no such conflict. He shared with me, about a year ago, that he knew God was taking him home, probably before his next birthday. God hit that target with a month to spare. And he was so happy about it! Life was tough for Richard, from very early on. This world would not last forever, and that was happy news for our friend. His faith in the next world was so solid, it was more real to him than his math equations, more absolute to him than the size of this universe and its first microsecond when all that exists today emerged from a pinprick in the nothing: nothing, then everything! Richard could see that. Furthermore, he was scientist enough to measure it. And for Richard, that all pointed unerringly back to God.
Of his profession, fifty years teaching at one university is a feat to be sung about. Although renowned for scaring some lazy students half to death, most of them got the joke and learned to love this man whose passion to see them learn was all he lived for. The grandson of one of my parishioners wrote: “Yes, he was my calculus 3 professor. I was one of the few students that got his jokes and he really liked me as a student and always wanted to hear about the great mathematical progress I was making at Chico. Professor Rose’s early life was incredibly hard … but when I had him in 2016, he just became a grandfather to a very cute little boy. He was always scatter brained and exceptionally tall and would hit his head on the speakers at least once a week in lecture.” That little boy was Vincent Tiberius, and grandpa Richard was absolutely in love with his grandson. He was so proud of Abe and Julianna, their spouses, their work. He wished they lived closer.
Between scaring students, teaching the mysteries of higher math and physics, kicking parked cars and feeding cats, our Richard had a full life. But he longed for Jesus. He yearned for that world without end.
When he got the health verdict of a few weeks, tops, something that would put you or me in the fetal position for days, fourth stage cancer of the lungs, to name one of his causes of death, he just beamed. I never saw anyone so happy to hear the manner of his way out. He has a twin sister he is looking forward to meet there, one who died before childbirth.
At one time, we read a book in what our church calls Prayer Lab, about visions of heaven by a prophetic man. It spoke of houses for the saints, and features to admire. Richard ate it up. He was the most heaven-bound believer I think I have ever known.
My wish for you today is that you know the love that’s of God, available right now, here and now. And that hope is born in your heart that knows it’s all going to be well. Richard knew it, that scientific mind of his making the clear calculation of a World Without End. And when he arrived there, the cheers went up.