Memories of Papaw
2 Corinthians 4:5-18For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Well, here we are again, six months later, to say goodbye to the second half of an amazing couple, my grandparents. At the end of Mema's service in March, Papaw was one of the last people to leave. Sitting in a wheelchair next to Mema's coffin, flanked by Uncle Ronnie, he said to me, "Well you have one more to go!" So here we are. Let's not do this again for a while!
Donald Bernard Guffey was born in East Bernard, TX on December 19, 1921. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the United States Navy and served as a signalman on large convoys in the Pacific. He was married to Adele Ruth Maresh of El Campo, TX for nearly 73 years. He is survived by his four children, nine grandchildren and eighteen great grandchildren.
The first thing I want to say is to apologize for the typo on the bulletin cover. If you do the math, you'll calculate that Papaw was 97 when he died last week, not the 100-- or even 111-- he recently claimed to be. He was very angry with me several months ago when I congratulated him on turning 97, and being so close to 100. He insisted he was 100, and, well, I guess we can spot him 27 months.
That flair of anger was very unusual for me to experience; I mean how many grandparents become angry at their grandkids? But I didn't have that stereotypical grandpa either. He certainly imparted wisdom at every opportunity and was kind and gracious and all that. The best way I could think of to describe my relationship with Papaw was playfully antagonistic. He never forgot anything anyone ever did, but if the mistake was innocent and funny enough, those wells ran deep, and he would draw that water of laughter over and over again! Like the time I scratched his red pickup trying to park it in the garage. I have no idea how much it cost to repair that; he never mentioned the money. But however much it cost, it was worth every penny many times over, the amount of joy he received telling that story for over thirty years!
His worldview was cast in stone by the Great Depression, WWII, his Christian faith, and his love for his family; things he experienced first hand. I studied history and politics in college, learning from various voices and experiences, so I had a more nuanced worldview. Since we had a mutual affinity for history and politics he would get excited when I was in town, because it promised a debate. He and I were almost always on opposite sides of things, not in a mean way, but still... if my team won and his team lost, I would make sure he knew. If my candidate lost and his won, he made sure I knew. The thing is: we were both always right.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.
The other day I watched some of the new Ken Burns documentary Country Music, telling the story of the growth of that style from regional to national. Hillbilly music, the old gospel songs sung with banjos or fiddles, became wildly popular during the Great Depression because of radio and the feeling of nostalgia of better times. Better times of the past when jobs and money were more available, but also the better times of the future: "Some glad morning when this life is o'er, I'll fly away." Those were the popular tunes of Papaw's youth, and he held them closely his entire life. Putting the worship bulletin for this service together the other day, I noticed hymns like The Old Rugged Cross and In the Garden were written in 1912 and 1913, respectively. Papaw was born in 1921, meaning those would have been contemporary Christian worship songs for his generation. Then I imagined some older generations would have thought them too modern and simple for worship. (That's a little church insider humor for those of you outside the worship wars of the 1990s).
On the day Papaw died, several of us stood around him and sung the hymns of the faith. In another setting, he might have laughed or rolled his eyes when we were off tune or forgot some of the verses. But it was a holy time, for Papaw and each of us. The victory those hymns promised for the faithful has been won by Papaw-- he always loved to win. They also sing of the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the hope it gives to the believer.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
I love the metaphor of the human body as a clay jar in the scripture: beautifully made by the hands of a loving God, but also fragile. When cracks occur, they allow the glorious light within to be seen by others: "For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It's a comfort to us as we face the death of a loved one, or consider the fragility of our own lives. Over the last couple of weeks Papaw had occasion to say goodbye to several loved ones. He did so without fear of what would happen, because he was certain of Jesus' resurrection, the resurrection of his loved ones, and his own. There was no doubting the truth of Papaw's faith. As I said, the things he believed were cast in stone, not negotiable or subject to nuance. Even as his outer nature wasted away, and however frustrating that was for him, he knew he was being prepared for something eternal. He was able to look past temporary things and believe eternal things. He never lost heart. Neither should we.
Papaw always loved family reunions. When I was a kid, we would have them nearly every year in Wharton. It was a strange experience. The place would be full of people I never knew, who would refer to the people I did know by the wrong names. Like someone would call Papaw "Uncle Donald." No, I had an Uncle Donald, but he was my dad's brother, not his father in law! Or Mom would be "Patsy." Just not right. I'd have to walk around the room meeting people or introducing myself as Pat and Frank's son, or more likely, finding a corner to wait until it was time to go home! But for Papaw those were his favorite days. A few years ago, Mom and Dad started hosting them again, either at the church or at their home, and they brought Papaw such joy. Don Guffey was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Adele, and his many brothers and sisters: Floyd, Lloyd, Gene, Clifford, Winnie, Mary, and Dottie and his grandson Ron. Toward the end of his life, he often dreamed of them. He anticipated joining them all in God's glory with great joy, a family reunion unlike any other. If we listen closely, we might just hear the laughter and singing.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen