I don't typically post funeral and marriage messages but several people indicated a desire for this one. Link to Obituary
Funeral Message for Neal Anthony Hudson.
We are reminded once again that sometimes death comes suddenly and unexpectedly. In living life, with every joy of living near at hand, the one we love, is suddenly and unexpectedly taken away from us. The tragic events that can happen in life remind us of those words uttered long ago by a young man by the name of David later to be killed King: Death is indeed, but a step away.
We come together grateful for the life of a son, grandson, fiancé, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, co-worker and more importantly a child of God. Let us be clear, Neal was a young man whose life was cut short, snatched from our very presence. Why couldn’t Neal with our technology, health care and sanitation have lived beyond our expectations, not 35 but 95, and yet … here we are… instead of the gathering for a wedding on the 27th of this month we are at a funeral on the 13th.
Let us pray …
Many years ago, when I was but in my early teens we took a family trip to several western states that included a stop at Yellowstone National Park. During our stop at Yellowstone we took a tour led by a park Ranger. One stop on the tour was at a forest of dead trees on the slope of a hill. The ranger began by explaining, that Yellowstone sits atop a super volcano - a caldera or “hot spot” with molten rock just two miles below. As a result, Yellowstone is constantly changing. It averages some 2,000 earthquakes every year, most of which are measurable but imperceptible.
The ranger added that for that reason --- the earth's constant movement --- the pools and geysers there in the basin and throughout the park were constantly changing.
Then pointing at the trees, the ranger said, “These trees started out as little seeds that blew into this area and said to themselves, 'What an awesome spot! We've got a view by the lake, it's warm, with a bit of a breeze. Let's plant here.' So, they did and thrived and grew to about 10 feet tall. All was well until a small earthquake caused a once-dormant hot pool in a part of the park to reignite and begin pumping out 200-degree water on the slope above this tree stand. Over time, the hot water streaming down the slope scalded the trees, leaving this monument to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Then the ranger added: “It just goes to show that where ever we are, where ever we put down our roots things can change. Change is the only constant.”
If even the earth beneath us is in a constant state of motion, we shouldn't be surprised that our lives, too, are always shifting. Let us be honest, change truly is the only constant. So, how shall we understand change as children of God? To help us understand, I would suggest we review a basic tenet of faith.
In faith, we trust that God has created all of creation, all of us and all that is around us out of love. It is such a love so deep and wide that we cannot fully understand but a love that carries it with it …. certain risks for us. Because God loves us, God allows certain freedoms to operate. Many of those freedoms we love and hold to be dear, often expressed at least in our nation as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Instead of God creating puppets, God refused to make us behave or believe in any certain, given way rather we can live, think and breath across a spectrum of creation and simultaneously for example at one moment both have doubts about God as well as accept God’s love and care. God desires this because God wants us to love God in return freely.
All of creation works within that framework, as do we. This allows both for deep joy in that we can create, evolve and imagine, but is also open to deep shock and sadness. For instance, it was love that drew Neal’s’ parents together. Out of that love, a child entered a new family. A unique child, solely and wholly his own. Certainly, considering Neal was born into the Hudson/Wilks family there came certain behaviors, relationships and stories. But just imagine, if Neal had been born and raised in Russia instead, what would his life have been like? That is the wonder of God’s creation and universe.
But the consequence of that same allowance for creation, evolution and imagination is that creation can make and go in all sorts of challenging directions and include deep sorrow. We can have tornadoes jump one home and hit another. We can have hurricanes turn on dime and drench Houston and miss San Antonio. Likewise, Neal was unique by the choices he made, and shall we dare say …. the choices he procrastinated making, but in this creation all it took was for one small cancer cell to go off in a wild direction and place us all here at the signs and remains of Neal’s life. Or as King David so wisely said to his good friend Jonathan, as I repeated earlier no matter where we are in life, we are one step from death.
Even so, out of faith, we trust and have hope that God created all of creation out of love. But it is not a love that stands at the fencepost waving for us to return as we go live our lives, rather it a love that involves relationships.
That is part of our created freedom too. The relationships we have. Neal had a relationship with all of you that are present here especially you Christina. Isn’t that amazing when one looks around and sees all of you here, the vast relationships that we are part of. God has given us to share in the joy of God’s creation.
In faith however, there is one more relationship God has created for us and that relationship is one Neal had and you have as well, a relationship that comes as a gift, by grace. The Bible lesson that I chose from John may seem like an odd scripture lesson to use at a funeral, but if you stop and think about it, this Scripture, too, tells us about God’s faithful creation found in God’s chosen Jesus Christ.
In a miracle event found in all four gospels, when it came time to do what is fundamental to creation --- nourishment --- we are told that one of the disciples was questioned by Jesus on how was it possible for this small group to provide for so many? For us creation is limited, but in the love of God, creation is beyond our imagination. To prove his point, Jesus took a few loaves and fish, a donation from a young person, and turned them into enough to feed thousands with leftovers.
Jesus loved and cared for these people, and Jesus was unwilling for this group of thousands to leave unfed and unloved. Equally, this same God through Jesus is unwilling to let this group live unfed and unloved. Jesus took the skepticism of his own followers and proved again that when human comfort, insight, ingenuity and provision fail, when we believe more in the fact that a few loaves and fish cannot feed thousands, God’s love comes to touch us and to hold us. Neal’s body failed. Our technology failed. But that does not mean that God’s love failed. Rather, this is the same Jesus who will later die for us and within three days, rise to provide for us a vision out of our limited view of creation, our limited view of God, to remind us we have God’s love even through death. The death, we see at a cemetery or a hospital room or what might have been, the death we see in a stand of promising trees in the stages of growth.
Certainly, we have our grief. We have our hopes unfulfilled. We have our doubts and fears. But even in this most sad hour, we can take the assurance that God will create and provide, and we will be fed.
Let us Pray: Gracious and Loving God, we thank you for the memories we have of Neal. We thank you that you provide for us in all the things we must face. We thank you for the promise found in the empty tomb and most of all for your love which see most perfectly in Jesus Christ. As Jesus took the loaves and fed the hungry, so may you feed us with the message of your comfort and your love. And as Jesus walked with his disciples in their lives and then beyond, so may we walk with us both now and always. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.