A Homily for Carroll Hendrickson

I am very grateful and deeply humbled that my cousin Carroll, your father, brother, grandfather, uncle, and friend, suggested that I participate in his funeral service.

There is, however, a pitfall for those of us talking about the deceased, especially one with so strong a personality as Carroll’s, namely that we end up talking mostly about ourselves and too little about the principal. Yet, in illustrating some of Carroll’s notable qualities and virtues, inevitably I have to speak of them as they impacted my life. You certainly should think of others and of your own experiences of Carroll in these circumstances. I mention only three: (1) Carroll’s love of family, present, extended and past – family going all the way back; (2) his love of arts and learning, and especially of great music; (3) his love of the religion of the Episcopal Church.

When I was a young boy visiting Uncle Carroll and Aunt Mary, I recall at the end of the war Carroll, Mason and John, my heroes, the greatest generation. When I was a teenager, Carroll and Margie and their young family, Hunt, Alice, and Anne, visited us while vacationing at Deep Creek Lake. And I remember in particular this man inspecting and lauding my small collection of history and religion books. This educated and sophisticated man, who many years later I was to find reading Proust’s Remembrance of This Past in French(!), and his comments touched me with a simple care that nothing be lost. No teacher, no priest had so profound an effect on me.

Ten years later, when I was in seminary in New York, Carroll came several times and he took me to off-Broadway plays in the Village, to visit Cousin Dorothy in Brooklyn, to meet Giles our Swiss cousin, AND to a performance of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman at the Met. This was my introduction to opera and, although I did not come to appreciate Wagner as Carroll did, nor was I ever as sophisticated as he, I did fall in love with Mozart, Verdi, and Paccini operas. And when Carroll learned that I was studying the writings of Alfred Worth Whitehead, he disclosed that he had met the great philosopher at one of the “evenings at the Whiteheads,” a night open to students and everyone else. Wow! My two heroes brought together. My horizons broadened.

Later when I brought my own family east, we always stopped to see Carroll and Margie, and my children were enthralled. And we learned of our genealogy, of the Doanes on Margie’s side, of the Hendricksons, and, so far as I was concerned, of the L’Huilliers and the Masons. And it was comforting to learn from Carroll that, through the Queen Mother, we are the 8th cousin of Queen Elizabeth – which I suppose, Hunt and Alice, makes you the 9th cousin to Prince Charles! Well, things could be worse!

And there is the Episcopal Church which we love – that often fractious group like the Corinthian church that Paul censured – or the House of Representatives. But we love the church as Paul loved the Corinthians and as Carroll loved All Saints’. I do think I’m correct, am I not, that he wrote the History of All Saints’. And if some may have thought that Carroll’s requirements for the conduct of this service were somewhat demanding, I would rather say, as was said of St. Francis – whose feast day was yesterday – that Carroll was “different, but not indifferent.”

He embodied the virtues of faith, hope, and love – of trust, compassion or care for the things of this world, and hope anchored in God, wherein lies our redemption and resurrection.

Consider the biblical readings that Carroll selected for this service:

Lamentations reminds us that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end. The Lord is my portion, says my soul. Therefore will I hope in him. he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love, for God does not willingly afflict anyone.”

And the Psalmist cries: “Out of the deep have I called unto thee, O Lord. I look for the Lord; my soul doth wait for him; in his word is my trust. O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his sins.”

Paul says: “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. We look not at what can be seen, for what is seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”

And Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes in God who sent me, has eternal life . . . and has passed from death to life.”

To translate all this: God’s steadfast love is at the beginning of all our days: God is the ultimate Creator and Redeemer. God’s steadfast love is the beginning and end of all our deeds and all our experiences; God’s steadfast love is the constant source, but not the only cuase of renewal; this is our daily renewal and resurrection.

So, no matter what the circumstances of life are, we trust in God – that is our faith. We love our fellow beings and ourselves, and, insofar, we love God. To put it the other way around: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is our faith.

And our ultimate hope is fixed, not on things that are temporary, no matter how much we may love them, no matter how much we may care for the persons and things of this world. For to live is to live in the faith, the trust, that everything we do is something that matters to self and others and to God “in whom we live and move and have our being” to God “unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.” Thus our lives are redeemed, resurrected from moment to moment as we live day by day. And our lives are consummated at the end when all our days are resurrected into God’s ongoing life.

Paul expressed this resurrection hope powerfully in Romans: “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for us all, will he not with him give us everything else? . . . It is God who justifies, who is to condemn? . . . Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31-39)

We live unto God; we die unto God. Nothing that occurs is ignored or lost; it is treasured for what it is and what it can be, and is saved for evermore in the ongoing life of God. This is our resurrection; this is our redemption; this is our hope. Amen.

—The Rev. David R. Mason
October 5, 2013