After finding out that our dear Jim had passed on Tuesday night, I offered to preach this Sunday because I remembered that Jim was scheduled to preach. I went online to check the lectionary for today and was just gob smacked when I read the first words of the first reading: “Then David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David.” It seemed, as I read through our readings that Jim was everywhere. When Solomon is talking to God he says: "You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love.” Faithfulness, righteousness, and uprightness of heart. Doesn’t that sound like Jim?
Paul’s letter to the people of Ephesus also reminded me of Jim’s life that was so filled with God, especially this: “be filled with the spirit, as you sing psalms … giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In my deep grief that night, I was comforted by the gospel reading, reminding me that Jesus promised: “Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever."
We are promised eternal life and that is a comfort in the face of death. More than most people I’ve ever known, Jim Campbell lived his faith. He wrestled with God and scripture. He worked to live a life full of God. Bishop Greg wrote in an extraordinarily beautiful and touching letter:
“Jim was a saint of God. That is putting it as clearly as I can. He was a mentor to me... A compass point... A friend... I loved him. I found amazing comfort in his affirmations and his challenges. This I know. Jim Campbell loved our Lord. Followed our Lord. He believed in the Church even with all the foibles and blemishes humans bring to it. He defended its efficacy and need in a world filled with the opposite. His loss is a huge one to us all.” Bishop Greg goes on to praise Bonnie and entreat us to pray for Bonnie and her family.
Jim not only believed in the Church, but he also deeply believed in St. Marks. He believed that this is a special church, that we are different from most places. He was our biggest cheerleader. He was also Bonnie’s biggest supporter. He fully supported her journey as a priest and was so very proud of her.
In our gospel today Jesus says, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” When you take communion, you live in Christ and Christ lives in you. You become the incarnation of Christ in the world.
This is a serious business, a serious charge, to live out your life in a Christlike manner. Not an easy task. After over 20 years of sitting with Jim in bible study, I can attest to how much most of us struggle with this challenge. Every Wednesday morning, we not only wrestled with scripture but with our own difficulties in trying to live as good Christians. I know that Jim struggled to forgive some people. But he kept trying. He kept praying to be better. We all did.
I’ve always felt that a faith arrived at through struggle is a very strong faith. This is the opposite of blind faith. This is lived faith. Jim lived his faith. We all saw that and were blessed to be witness to his journey. Now he can rest from the pain and struggle he’s lived for these last years. Now he can rest in God’s loving hands.
Please pray with me: God our Father, we thank you that you have made each of us in your own image and given us gifts and talents with which to serve you. We thank you for Jim, the years we shared with him, the good we saw in him, the love we received from him. Now give us strength and courage to leave him in your care, confident in your promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.