Note: This evening, I’ll be attending the funeral of friend and fellow parishioner, Tyler Rentz, who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday morning. Ever the consummate Southern gentleman, Tyler always looked straight out of a Brooks Brothers catalog. And, yes — I’ll be honest — was partial inspiration for my own bowtie affections. No matter what time of day, whenever I showed up at Starbucks, sure enough, Tyler was there, either dressed well or in his hospital scrubs.
We’d always strike up some friendly conversation about the superiority of Rite I, the ever-present national Church drama, politics or about life in general. Really, Tyler was always willing to talk about anything. He was also a great supporter of mine and a frequent commentor on this blog. I will sorely miss him.
Pray for the repose of his soul. Pray for his family and friends. Mary, pray. Jesus save.
Whenever someone dies — especially someone like Tyler — I think of these words that I once said at a funeral two years ago when my maternal grandfather passed away. My grandmother asked me to say a few things. I’m not sure where they came from, but by the time I had driven through the night to Indiana, they were fully formed. I share them here, again:
One of the most important words in the Christian life and in the life of the Church is the word, “Alleluia.” As I’m sure most of you know, “Hallelujah” is a Hebrew word that means “Praise the Lord”. It is used throughout the Old Testament, but is used mostly in the Psalms, where they would remind each other of God’s work:
Do you remember when we crossed the Red Sea, as if it were dry land? Alleluia. Do you remember when the Angel of Death passed over our homes because of the blood that was smeared on the doorposts? Alleluia. Do you remember when He overthrew Og, the King of Bashan and the Kingdoms of Tyre and Sidon? Alleluia.
So, too, did Christians take this word and use it in response to the work of God in their lives: Do you remember when Christ hung on the Cross for three hours? Alleluia. Do you remember when He overcame death by death, the grave by entering the grave and tasted death so that we wouldn’t have to? Alleluia. Do you remember when He rose victoriously from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God? Alleluia. Do you remember when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Disciples on the Day of Pentecost? Alleluia.
This word, too, was on my Grandpa’s lips all the time: Whether he was in the field or in the shop, he sang, Alleluia. Whether he was singing or preaching in Church, he said, Alleluia. Whether he was with his family or alone, he said, Alleluia.
His life was an embodied, “Alleluia” as he tried to live like a sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord. I think he succeeded more times than not in saying “Alleluia” in all things. Who among us was not moved by his faith in the valley of the shadow of the death that said, Alleluia? Through the diagnosis of Cancer, the visits back and forth between the Doctor’s Appointments and trips to the Hospital, Grandma and Grandpa were constantly saying, Alleluia – Praise the Lord.
And, he is singing “Alleluia” to this day. When he passed from this life into the next, he was met by myriads of angels and archangels, by martyrs, prophets and Apostles. He was met by my Uncle Brian and my Great-Grandmother and Great-Grandfather. He was met at the gates to that heavenly City by every Saint in every age. And they all turned together and fell on their face towards the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world and cried aloud in one voice, Alleluia.
This, too, is our song. Inspired by his witness, let us live lives of “Alleluia”: Whether we are with our family or if we are alone, let us say, Alleluia. Whether we are at work or at play, let us say, Alleluia. Whether we are at Church or in the world, let us say, Alleluia.
And, even here, let us raise up our song of “Alleluia”: Let us say it through the grief and the tears, Alleluia. Let us say it through clenched teeth and questions of “Why”, Alleluia. Through our sadness and our loss, let us say, Alleluia. Yea, and even here at the grave, knowing that Grandpa is with the Lord, we will make our song of Alleluia.
And, when we cross the Jordan and enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, we will be met by myriads of angels and archangels, by prophets, martyrs and Apostles. We will be met at the gate by my Uncle Brian, my Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother and by my Grandpa, Jerry Collier. We will be met by every Saint in every age who called upon the name of the Lord.
Then, we will turn towards the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world. We will turn towards Him who is light from light and true God from true God. We will turn towards Him who is our love and who has loved us from the beginning, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We will turn with them, fall on our faces and with one voice exclaim, “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.”