Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection February 19, 2017
Reflections from our brother Art Myren’s Memorial
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
“Where, O Death is your sting?” - words from our brother Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians, echoing the prophet Hosea. And, yet, death stings terribly!
You and I know this. Millie and her family know this. Death’s sting pierces our hearts. Death’s sting poisons our souls with its terrible toxins. There is no person here who has not been stung in some significant way by death. There is no soul here that has not suffered death’s piercing.
Our beloved church has been stung by death four times in the past four months. And let me say, in no uncertain words, the sting of death hurts like hell!
It’s sting is even more brutal, even more painful, when it comes unexpectedly. Who in this congregation knew that January 15 would be our brother Art’s last worship with us? Who knew that January 17 would be our brother Art’s last earthly day? Like the proverbial thief in the night - death came. And we are all the poorer for it.
Death stings! Yes, it does. As the eminent 19th Century British Baptist pastor, C.H. Spurgeon, put it: “When death rides his pale horse, rough-shod, over all terrestrial joys, he makes us feel that it is a poor thing to live because the thread of life is so soon to be cut … O death, you are the cruel enemy of our hearths and homes …
“Many seem like maimed souls when the best half of their hearts have been snatched from them … The green have been taken as well as the ripe. Death has cut down the father’s hope and the mother’s joy …
“Death has no compassion: his flinty heart feels for none … he is an enemy, indeed, and the very thought of his cruel attacks upon our love makes us weep.”
So let us weep this day. Let us weep for Art’s dear spouse, Millie. Let us weep for daughter, Janice, and son, Mark, and for their children. Let us weep for ourselves - as Art’s family in faith - as Art’s classmates at St. Xavier’s Renaissance Academy - as Art’s fellow film buffs at the Oak Lawn Library.
Let us weep over all the ties that bound us to Art Myren. Let us weep because all these ties have now come unraveled and we are, once again, left alone in our tears and in our grief. Death, where is your sting? Death’s sting, it’s stinger - is stuck deep in the flesh of each of us here this afternoon.
We will miss Art deeply. We will miss his singing, his wealth of knowledge, his endless array of ideas, including the zany ones. Our brother Art knew well, from all his education and work in urban planning, that one must be thorough and attack a problem from many angles if one wants to solve it.
Just three months ago, at the memorial for my beloved Beth, I said that life’s purpose can only be found in two things: in intimacy and in creativity. Our brother Art was graced with endless and over-flowing curiosity which lies at the core of creativity. We will miss his deep creative curiosity.
We will miss Art’s love of learning and his love of the environment. We will miss his embrace of those on the margins and his befriending of the friendless. We will miss Art in a multitude of ways - great and small.
Death stings! I know that Art, as the son of Swedish immigrants, coupled with his abiding love of cinema, was well familiar with Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal. In that movie, a medieval knight plays chess with Death personified. At one point the knight prays: “God, have mercy on us because we are small and frightened and ignorant.” And so we are!
But there is more to the story. We read in Psalm 116, verse 15: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.” Art’s death does not seem precious to us. His death is more like ashes in our mouths.
But it is we, the earth-bound, the flesh-bound, that are stung by death. Those who have gone to God, those who have been embraced by Eternity, like our beloved brother Art, have moved well beyond death’s sting.
They have overcome death and have stepped into that realm where justice reigns; where peace is ever-present; where discord is never heard; where Love in all its spectacular splendor shines full on the faces of those who enjoy what we cannot - the full embrace of God’s Radiance.
Our brother Art served this beloved but imperfect church so well for so long. Now he claims his rightful membership in the perfect church of the Crucified, Risen and Glorified Christ, where church conflicts are always absent.
Sisters and brothers, are we not all tired of death? Has Death not long ago overstayed his unwanted welcome? Yet, at present, there seems no way to evict this cruel contagion, this ghastly house guest.
Yet we’re assured by our brother Paul in 1st Corinthians: the last enemy to be destroyed is death. So God may be all in all. Yes, death stings! But death, thanks be to God, does not have the final word. God has the final word and that word is LIFE!
Our beloved brother has now been engulfed by the Author of All Life. Art has returned from whence he came. We are more than grateful for his many years of life, love, and outstanding discipleship.
Brother Art, you were always interesting and that is high praise indeed! We applaud your kindness and your care. We applaud all you were to all of us. We applaud your life, death, and new life in that place where God’s Love shines forever. Amen!