Summary: Funeral service for Kathleen Brown Hardman, adult learner and president of a Sunday School class designed for beginning Bible students. Curiosity is good; curiosity for the Bible is better; a thirst for the life offered in the Bible is best.
The portrait says it all. A triumphant face, not especially youthful, but in a cap and gown, the symbols of academic achievement. The portrait says, “I’ve done it. I’ve learned something.”
Whose is this smiling face? Is this some malingerer, who put off, for far too long, getting her basic education? Is this some intellectually challenged individual, who just couldn’t get it right? Or is this the portrait of a buoyant lady whose insatiable curiosity and questing spirit kept leading her onward to find new things to learn?
You knew and loved Kathleen Hardman. In fact one of our members said to me the other day, “You just couldn’t help loving Kay.” You know that this is not the face of laziness, nor is this the picture of a slow learner. This is the expression of delight worn by someone who was learning and growing.
I first became acquainted with Kay Hardman’s desire to learn just a few feet from this very spot, downstairs. We had discovered that there were a number of adults in our congregation who were not involved in Sunday School because they felt they did not know enough about the Bible. That may seem odd to you, because that’s what Sunday School is all about, studying the Bible. But they felt that they knew so little, their ignorance would be exposed if they were to join any of the adult classes we already had. So I sent out the call for people like that to meet me on a Sunday morning in our multi-purpose room and we would form what I called the “Christian Basics” class. Thirty-three people showed up, among them Kathleen Hardman. She soon became the most eager and the most consistent member of the class. And she also became its most demanding member.
I had no textbook but the Bible, you see. I was planning to work out the curriculum week by week, on my own. I had to start at the very beginning. I well remember that in that first meeting, I said something about the Old Testament, and someone interrupted, “Pastor, what is the Old Testament?” I realized I had to start at the very basic beginning, like, “This is a Bible, B-I-B-L-E”! So week by week we carefully laid foundations – about how we know God, where the Bible came from, what religion is all about, the whole thing. And always, at my right hand, there would be Kathleen Hardman, with one insistent query, every week: “Do we have a printout?” “Pastor, do we have a printout?”
You see, there are two kinds of people in our church. There are those for whom something is not real if you don’t speak it. You can print up all the bulletins and the newsletters you want, but they don’t intend to read all that stuff, and if you don’t speak it, it isn’t real. But then there are the others who are just the opposite. There are those for whom something is not real unless it is written. You announce it, and they say, “But it wasn’t in the bulletin”. You tell them some information, and they say, “Can you write me a memo on that?” So there was Kathleen, who came to class to learn, but who was not satisfied unless her teacher provided what she invariably called, “a printout”. If I didn’t get an outline done, Kathleen felt like we really had not had class, and would say at the end of the session, “Reverend, next week, do we have a printout?” No, I have that wrong. She would say, “Reverend, next week, we will have a printout!” Her desire to know never dried up. I
Now curiosity is a good thing, but it is not enough, in and of itself. There are many things about which we might be curious, but it is not necessary, is it, to know everything? It is not even possible to know everything. But it is important to understand what you want to know and why you want to know it.
When John wrote the latest of the four gospels, he acknowledged that there was much to know about Jesus. We would like to have so much more information. People have speculated about those “hidden years”, before Jesus burst onto the scene at the Jordan River. What was He like and what was He doing for all those thirty years? We know almost nothing. And John says that he is aware that “Jesus did many other signs ... which are not written in [his] book” or in any other. But it does not matter, says John. What matters is that “these [things] are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ.”
Kathleen Hardman wanted to know about many things. Some of them are listed in the obituary. In addition to her nursing training, she earned her baccalaureate when she was in her 50’s and her master’s when she was in her 70’s. Even then she was not finished, and talked about doctoral work. More than that, just look at the list of other subjects about which she was curious: music, photography, parliamentary procedure, arts and crafts, writing. What a breadth of curiosity! What sheer joy in living!