My uncle’s service
On Thursday evening my uncle passed away. It appears he took his own life. This week has been one of the hardest for me and there are going to be hard times ahead, but for now I am home and back on a normal posting schedule. What follows is a manuscript of the sermon I gave at my uncle’s memorial service. There was no audio recording and the regular podcast will resume this coming Sunday.
This sermon was about 10 minutes and was given to about 400 people including the entire police department where my uncle served, some FBI agents, SWAT, a state senator, a state representative, District Attorneys from Philadelphia and surrounding areas, and police officers from dozens of police departments.
In the Bible there is an event recorded when Elijah is up against 500 prophets of Baal. The prophets did not believe in the one true God but Elijah did and so Elijah stands up, prays and brings down fire from heaven. As a result the prophets of Baal became followers of God. This is like my uncle, willing to stand up against all odds in order to do what was right.
Right after this event Elijah is being hunted by an evil woman named Jezebel. Elijah runs to the woods and screams out to God to take his life. Elijah is crying out to God for answers. Lately this has been me, and all of us here, we have been asking questions. Because too often, when our heart hurts, we ask questions. We ask where, when, how, and especially why? In the midst of our grief and heartache we think that having the answers to these questions will make that deep ache go away.
Unfortunately the answers to these questions don’t make the ache go away. Most of the time they make the ache worse.
There are only a few questions that make the hurt ease, they don’t even make it go away, they only make it tolerable. These are the questions of who and whose. Who was he and whose was he.
The question of who, who was Ted Klein? He was a police officer, he IS a marine. He was a son, a brother, my uncle, the one who would bail me out of trouble with my mom, the one who would kick my but when I was being stupid, and most of all he was my hero.
This one time when I was in junior high I spent the day with uncle teddy. He took me to see the police department and we played pool. That evening while playing pool I mentioned to him that I got made fun of a lot in school and I didn’t know what to do. He told me to hang in there and put up with it a little longer and it would all work out and I would be better, more successful, and better off if I could hang in there instead of beating them up. He ended up being right. He was my hero because he made it through what I was going through at the time. Later on, my uncle showed up at my school in full police uniform and picked me up in his Camaro and asked me who picked on me. When I pointed out the kids he went up to them and simply said “Stop picking on MY nephew!” That is who my uncle is. Oddly enough those boys never spoke to me again.
Growing up, I never played cops and robbers, I always played Uncle Teddy vs. the world and I won every time.
There is still the question of who my uncle belongs too. Whose was he? He was a Child of God. He belonged to the God who created my uncle with a purpose. And a God who was never surprised by any of this, and believed in my uncle even when uncle teddy didn’t believe in himself. This God bought him with a price, saved him by grace on the cross and this God loved my uncle more than life itself. This God loves the whole world so much that God stepped out of heaven and became flesh in order to experience what his beloved children experience. This God became flesh as Jesus and one day he stood on a mountain and said “I am on your side and I am close to all who are aching because of the heavy load they are carrying.” Then this Jesus showed us how far he was willing to go for us by dying on a cross for my uncle and for the whole world and gives all grace freely to everyone who asks, no matter what they have done, when they did it, why they have done it, who they did it with or even how many times they did it. And if that death wasn’t enough for us Jesus came back to life at the resurrection to give us hope, hope for my uncle, and hope for our future.
So then to all of you may God be close to you when you cry out to God. May God be your rock when you don’t understand and are filled with questions. And May you always know the who you are and whose you are in the eyes of the God who created you.
To all of you who protect and serve us. May God keep you safe on your patrol and go before you on every call and know that when you experience things that no human should ever experience that God is with you and will hear you when you cry out.