Summary: Funeral message for Velton H. Edmonds, former chair of the church’s Music Committee. Gentleness and wisdom together, without an ounce of envy or ambition, yields a harvest for those who survive.
The poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson has the ancient Greek hero Ulysses say, “I am a part of all that I have met”. More completely,
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
I am a part of all that I have met. Ulysses knows that he has received much from his travels and his experiences and that he has much to share. Indeed life piled on life would not be enough to share it all, and, sadly, all too little remains of this one life. He was a part of all that he had met, and it a part of him, and share it he must.
Velton Edmonds too had much to share. And just as he was a part of all that he had met, so you too, his family and his friends, are part of him and he of you.
Some little while ago that I realized that in several ways, Velton reminded me of my own father. Both of them were letter carriers; both of them loved music, especially church music, most especially classical church music. Both of them had hearts that felt deeply and, though their words were few, their tears were real and their feelings genuine. Both of them loved to dress and look good; on Sundays, when I would greet Velton at the door, I would look at his tie, and, never dreaming that today would come so soon, would say, “Velton, I like that tie. Leave it to me in your will, won’t you?” And he would smile and promise that yes, he would; you all had better check the codicils to see about that!
But most important, both of these men believed in their children – two sons for my dad, two daughters for Velton; they believed in us and loved us to the end. My dad and your dad, Nicole and Bridgette, very similar, I suspect. So maybe then what I experienced when my father passed away will be what you too will experience; maybe what I discovered those twenty-one years ago will be close to what you are finding now.
If so, my friends, there’s bad news and there’s good news. The bad news is that it will take you a while to grow through your dad’s departure; a man like Velton sows seeds of feeling down so deep, so far, that we do not easily let go. It took me a good five years to grieve completely through my dad’s death. That’s the bad news. But there is good news. The good news is that a man like Velton sows his seeds of wisdom and faith and insight so deep, so far, that we do not forget them. We value them, we trust them, we live by them. If I am anything at all today I owe a major part of it to a man who read my child’s heart and healed it, who listened to my youthful half-baked opinions and guided them, and who, I know, prayed for me and for my brother every day of his life. I am a part of all that I have met, and so are you; and that is good news indeed. Velton Edmonds has sown the seeds of his spirit deep within you, and as the years go by, your continuing grief notwithstanding, you are going to harvest much from what he has sown.
The Letter of James suggests something of what this harvest will be like. “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” A harvest of righteousness, sown in peace. How did Velton do that? James will instruct us.
James says, first, “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” Demonstrate that what you do is done with gentleness and with wisdom, blended together.
The last position of leadership Velton Edmonds held within the life of this church was that of Chairman of the Music Committee. As such, he was responsible for meeting the needs of our music staff and for advancing our church’s worship life through music. Now I don’t know how many of you are aware of this, but in many churches the music department is also the war department! There is something about church music that brings out the emotional side in us, and we are not hesitant about expressing vigorously held opinions. Since I am no longer pastor here, I don’t have to be polite, do I? I can just go ahead and say it: our musicians have strong opinions and voice them forcefully; no, wait, I’d better broaden that – our Music Committee members have strong opinions and voice them forcefully; no, that’s still not it – our congregation members have strong opinions about music and voice them very forcefully, and usually to the Chairman of the Music Committee. Velton walked into a situation that was volatile and threatened at any moment to create a stir in this church.