Summary: Funeral service for Robert Cecil White, poet, jazz musician, self-professed prodigal.

It’s hard to believe that it was only a few months ago when

onto the scene, here at this church, there burst like a blaze

of light a small intense man, dressed in a loose-flowing shirt,

speaking up frequently. People took to him immediately; he

was so open and so outgoing, and we at Takoma Park knew

that we had someone special among us in Robert Cecil

White. We had someone special because he had in himself

something special. Call it charisma, call it personality, call it

spark, call it what you will: I call it joy. Robert White lived in

joy and brought us into that joy.

How do you explain a life like that? Where does such a joy

come from? How did Robert get it? Is it available to you and

me? I believe that Jesus not only taught us how to receive

joy, but also how to understand a man like Robert White. I

believe the Bible will show us that if you want joy, real joy,

true joy, wonderful joy, it is not only, as the old song has it,

that you must “let Jesus come into your heart.” That’s true,

as far as it goes, but there is something else. If you want joy,

real joy, true joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your

heart – and – develop the gifts that God has put into your

life. It is only as we grow what God has given us that

authentic joy comes.

In a parable that Jesus told, there was a wealthy man who

was about to set out on a long journey. In order to make

sure that his resources were well cared for while he was

away, he selected three servants and gave each one of them

a certain number of talents. Interesting that in those days a

talent was a sum of money; today we use the word to

describe an ability. However you use the word, it means that

each of these three servants was entrusted with something

valuable. One of them got only one talent; another received

two talents; and one fortunate fellow was blessed with five

talents. When each had received his set of talents, the

master left. The master simply gifted each one and went on

his way.

But you know the story -- how the two talent man and the

five talent man invested their gifts, multiplied them, and

gladly offered them back to the master. To each of these the

master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into

the joy of the master.” But the one talent man did nothing but

bury his gift in the sand, keeping it safe but unused; for this

holding back, for this lack of initiative, the one talent man

heard the wrath of the master and the threat of being cast

into darkness, where there is no joy at all.

Jesus is teaching us that we are gifted, all of us. I see here

no mention of any servant who is given zero talents. All of

us are gifted, and if we want joy, we will have to venture

what we have been given; we will have to develop it and

share it. Just hiding away what you have will not do; that

leads only to sorrow. Growing and giving, those are the

things that bring joy.

I am persuaded that on Sunday last, as Robert Cecil White

passed from life through death into eternal life, he heard the

master’s greeting, “Well done, good and faithful servant.

Enter into the master’s joy”. For here was a five talent man

who had learned how to grow and to share his gifts.

Would you explore with me the joy-giving talents of a five

talent man – one whom you have described in your obituary

as a Renaissance man? A man for all seasons and a man

whose every nerve was a-tingle for the Lord? A five talent

man – maybe it would help us to get the picture if we use the

five letters of his last name to focus on his five talents. W,

H, I, T, E – would you permit me to play with those letters a

little in order to point up the source of Robert’s joy?


W is for writing. Robert wrote, especially poetry. I have on

my computer poems that he sent me by email. You have on

the bulletin one of his compositions. He wrote for the

Takoma Towers newsletter, and, as if that were not enough,

he published his own handouts as well. One of our members

reports having seen him reading poetry on a cable TV

channel. Robert knew that writing is a wonderful way to

share. Writing multiplies the gift, because when you publish,

others can read, the circle widens, and people you do not

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