Funeral sermon preached at St. Christopher's, the Burial Office of Les Maley, April 25, 2011.
How do you know that the thing you are doing is really worth doing? This question snags most souls at some point or another along our earthly pilgrim walks. Others, though, don’t seem nearly as perplexed, which can frustrate the rest of us. Their answers to questions of self-importance and action are gentle, fluid, and obvious. Lived out in their lives. These ones exude a selflessness centered on something they seem to see clearly, as if on a far off horizon, even if it’s not so clear to the rest of us. They are often marked by a willingness to serve and a gladness and readiness to give without bringing undue attention to the giving. Such a one is clear about his purpose and transparent in his humility.
By all accounts, and on every count, Leslie Earl Maley –Les – was such a one.
Let me say up front that I didn’t know Les. But it’s hard to hear much about the formative years of this parish without his name and Kay’s popping up. And if you’re lucky enough to hear the stories from someone who knew Les or Kay, the warmth of the smile and the regard in the voice is at least as telling as the story.
Talk about Les, as it’s come to me through his friends in this church, often goes something like this: “You know, Fr Jonathan, Les built most of the set for that Vacation Bible School camp, the one called 29 AD. Over 70 people from all over Portland here learning of God. But don’t bother looking for him in the pictures. He’s not the kind to show up in the pictures. That just wasn’t like him.” Or “That coffee kitchen over there – I’m pretty sure Les did that, too, but if he did, you know he just did it – whatever it was that needed to be done. Didn’t talk much about it.” Or “Les wasn’t one to waste many words, but when he spoke, we listened.”
Words you hear folks using to describe Les include: selfless, diligent, not one to make a fuss, loyal, devoted.
So the reading from Wisdom is not out of place with respect to Les: “...the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God.”
Of course, if Les had pursued selflessness for its own sake, or loyalty as an isolated virtue, we’d celebrate a life well-lived today, shrug our shoulders and be done. But that would be to make too little of Les’s selflessness and devotion, a disposition not unlike that of John the Baptist who said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” That is, a disposition that sought to point to and live in the mercies of Jesus.
And because Les sought to point to and live in the mercies of Jesus, we do more today than simply remember a life. We celebrate Les’ entrance into the eternal life made possible by the God to which he pointed.
As we celebrated yesterday, the God to which he pointed is the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Even as we announced plans for this service yesterday, at our Sunday worship, it was in the midst of loud, glad, brash Alleluias! The Easter Feast. And truly today Les is met, married, united to the Good News of Easter. That because Jesus is raised from the dead, we too will be raised. And Christ’s own life reminding us that the life of a humble servant is not too low for resurrection joy.
What a reminder: that we need not fear death or loving one another as servants. Les embodied this reminder, this truth, because he loved the crucified and risen Jesus.
Thank God and praise Him.