A Singing Farmer

A Singing Farmer

Dear Friends,

He sang at his own funeral. My uncle LeRoy, my mother’s youngest brother, died a few weeks ago, and on Saturday, sang at his own funeral. Sadly, I was unable to attend in person.

Uncle LeRoy sang in my home church in Iowa for weddings and funerals, Christmas and Easter, and always with the choir. His clear tenor voice was as lovely and gentle as his smile. I had not heard him sing in years, but on Saturday I “attended” his funeral on Facebook Live, and heard his voice again. Because of covid restrictions, there was no live congregational singing. So instead, LeRoy’s voice soared through the sanctuary on a recording of Malotte’s “Lord’s Prayer,” reducing us all to grateful tears.

Since his death, I often hear his voice in my heart. I woke one morning this week with the century-old Swedish hymn in my ears, “If I gained the world, but lost the Savior.” LeRoy sang it often. The text is based on Sunday’s gospel reading (Matthew 16.21-28), in which Jesus chastises Peter for trying to protect Jesus from his inevitable suffering and death: “God forbid it, Lord! This will never happen to you!”

According to Jesus, it is better to give one’s life willingly for the sake of the other, than to hold on to it for selfish gain.

The gospel reading dovetails nicely with the epistle reading (Romans 12.9-21):

“Let love be genuine.

Outdo one another in showing honor.

Extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”

Though those words may be familiar, their sentiment has become foreign. Words I used to understand no longer mean what I thought they did.

“Enemy” is the word we use for anyone who disagrees with us.

“Liberty” is the word we use to justify our actions, often at the expense of other’s “liberty.”

“Safety” is the word we use to covertly signal our fear of our black and brown neighbors.

I am horrified by the violence around us—violence in speech, in action, in intent. The pictures of armed gunmen roaming the streets of Kenosha, not far from where some of our members live, nearly brought me to my knees. One of those men carrying a gun, self-identified as a “good guy,” killed two people. Is that what “good guys” do?

What is gained when we allow fear to overtake us; when we vilify our neighbors; when we meet our own needs and ignore the needs of others? What is gained when our speech and actions are so hateful, so small? And what is our witness to the world?

If you are looking for a better way to live, a more charitable way to think, a kinder way to move through the world, you need look no further than Jesus. You need do nothing but what he did. He was selfless. He was kind. He was generous. He loved his enemies.

How I long to hear my uncle sing again, a man whose song matched the way he lived. He was a man devoted to his family, generous with his friendship, patient in suffering, faithful even when the world was faithless. He sought nothing but to serve. And he taught us to do the same.

I leave you with one verse of the song that sings in my heart today. Imagine my uncle, a sun-burned farmer, wearing a crisp white short-sleeved dress shirt, tall and straight as a tree, singing his witness. Imagine my uncle LeRoy, disciple of Jesus who now sings again with my mom in the heavenly choir:

If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,

Were my life worth living for a day?

Could my yearning heart find rest and comfort

In the things that soon must pass away?

If I gained the world, but lost the Savior,

Would my gain be worth the lifelong strife?

Are all earthly pleasures worth comparing

For a moment with a Christ-filled life?

(Anna Olander, 1904)

Seeking to live as Jesus—and my uncle—taught,

Pastor JoAnn Post

One thought on “A Singing Farmer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s