Saturday, February 27, 2010
Saying Goodbye to Vern Gross, father of Pastor Sue Gross
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Victory In Jesus for Vern Gross, Father of Pastor Sue Gross
We arrived early for the funeral service at First UMC, Mt. Vernon, and had our choice of seats. We chose a pew near the back of the magnificent sanctuary, and began to watch pictures flash across the screen: Reminders of Vern's earthly life, as the melody of Victory In Jesus soared in the background.
Andrea Abbott rehearsed her solo of Amazing Grace to heavenly accompaniment.
Through the pictures, we saw Vern as a very young boy, witnessed his progression to college student, friend, sweetheart and husband of Nyla. He was a strikingly handsome youth and active bearer of the Gospel Message: He had a strong faith, we would later hear Rev. Pete Adrian say during his wonderful eulogy of this man being laid to rest today at age 84.
Promptly at 1:30 pm today, we stood for the entrance of Vern's family into the sanctuary. We recited the 23rd Psalm, as a congregation, sang The Old Rugged Cross and then recited in unison a congregational prayer.
The Old Testament Lesson was a familiar one, from Isaiah 40:28-31, highly appropriate for one who would be soon described by Rev. Adrian as a man with boundless energy, who did not grow faint and was moved by wings of eagles through a long and purposeful life that emphasized love of God and family. On this day, Isaiah spoke to this congregation a message of hope, life and renewal.
It was perfect lead-in to the lady with the voice of angels, Andrea Abbott, and her incredible solo, Amazing Grace.
The New Testament Lesson was John 21:4-13, a Scripture which describes the Resurrected Jesus cooking a surprise breakfast of fish for His Disciples, chosen carefully for this day because of Vern's last words before passing from this life:
The fish are ready!
Rev. Adrian assumed, correctly I believe, that Vern must have had this Scripture in mind at that moment and perhaps caught a glimpse of Jesus, Himself, welcoming Vern with freshly cooked fish.
As Rev. Adrian moved along with the stirring narrative of Vern's life, it became apparent that the idea of resurrection must have figured prominently in his earthly life as well. When the Gross family's house burned down, Vern's response was to rebuild it himself, from the ground up, on the ashes of their previous dwelling. This from a man who had not yet built even a birdhouse, said Rev. Adrian. And Vern did it in just 18 months, learning on the job as the new house took shape and his confidence grew with his abilities.
The story of Vern's life included his deep devotion to his wife, Nyla, with whom he never had a cross word in their 61 years together, his love of outdoor life: hunting and fishing, and his willingness to teach his children how they should live and love life in harmony with others, and with their Lord. To argue in anger was something that Vern refused to do, realizing that in anger one may say something not really meant in earnest, and realizing also the permanence of all words once they are spoken. As Rev. Adrian summarized this man's gifts, he used words like funny, good-natured, considerate. No wonder he was loved so deeply by those whose lives he touched.
Through all this, Vern also was blessed with one of the requirements of a full life: a great sense of humor. His was a dry wit, sometimes requiring that one look for the twinkle in his eye to be sure he was laughing on the inside.
In his prayer, Rev. Adrian thanked God for the life and times of Vern Gross, noting our joy in remembering him and our grief in losing him.
We all recited the Lord's Prayer, the affirmation of faith and sang the Gloria Patri before Rev. Adrian did something a tad unusual: He mentioned the Church's penchant for keeping good records, and that Vern Gross had changed churches a few times in his life.
Then, his hands raised Heavenward, Rev. Adrian proclaimed Vern's most recent record change, from the roll of this earthly church in Franklin County, Texas, to the glorious and Eternal Church of Jesus in the Kingdom of God, calling for the confident assurance of that divine transfer of record.
There was time for one more hymn, the sending forth with blessing and the family recessional, before the melody of Victory In Jesus once again filled the air.
How completely Vern Gross would have certainly agreed with those who planned this remarkable and most memorable celebration of the Gospel, and his own life--as lived by its tenets.