Sermons

Requiem Eucharist for Deacon Barry Neville

October 14, 2018

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.

Let me begin with a question.  What are the words to the shortest verse in the Bible?  “Jesus wept”.  I will often remind a family after the death of their loved one that this verse exists. 

It is found in the Gospel of St. John.  It is as Jesus comes to Mary and Martha after the death of their brother Lazarus.  “Jesus wept.”  Jesus wept, even though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  Still, Jesus wept.

In this past week, I know that we have wept.  We have wept when we heard of Barry’s death.  And it is okay to weep.  I have kept myself pretty busy this past week – on purpose – so that I would not spend a lot of time weeping.  But I will weep.

I will weep for a dear friend.  I will weep for a confidant.  I will weep for the person whom I chose to be the godfather to my son.  I am sure that we will all continue to weep for everything that Barry was to all of us – a husband, a brother, a professor, a colleague, and the list goes on.

I weep for a Deacon.  I am confident in saying that Barry Neville was a Deacon to the very fiber of his being.  As I said at the ordination of Dick and Barry five years ago, the Church simply recognized who they have always been.

We have had many conversations in the Commission on Ministry about the Vocational Diaconate.   The simplest definition that we have come up with is that a Vocational Deacon is someone who is a bridge between the Church and the world and the world and the Church.  Barry was just such a bridge in so many ways.  Let me point to two of them.

He was a bridge as he taught several generations of students about history, sociology, and religion.  He was a bridge as he cared for them.  Perhaps you do not know that a group of Orthodox students asked Barry to be a faculty advisor for their organization, because the professors who were Jewish were Reform Jews.  Certainly this gives witness to Barry’s faithfulness.

Barry was a bridge as he volunteered at the Hospital as a chaplain.  He spent countless hours with patients, families, and hospital staff.  He once told me of a time when an evangelical pastor died and members of his church came and prayed that he would be brought back to life again.  They did so earnestly and for quite some time.  Finally, Barry said to them, “You know where he is.  If you were there, would you want to come back?”  And they stopped.

This leads me to the Gospel lesson for today.  It comes after that short verse about Jesus weeping:

“Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’  Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’  Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’  Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; they who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.’

Today we weep.  We weep tears of sorrow as we will miss Barry.  We weep tears of joy as we live in the hope of the resurrection.  Indeed, we will all miss Barry, but as Barry reminds us, “We know where he is.  If we were there, would we want to come back?”  AMEN.