Steve Zwettler’s Homily from Jim Green’s Funeral, November 24, 2018

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FUNERAL HOMILY

For:  Jim Green

November 24, 2018

Holy Wisdom Monastery

By:  Steve Zwettler

 

 

JIM GREEN:  A MODERN DISCIPLE

 

Again, welcome to all of you here today.  It is so good of so many of you coming together here at Holy Wisdom to celebrate Jim’s life and to support his family. 

 

As all of you know, Jim made so many wonderful connections and friendships with so many from different walks of life, and he would be delighted to see all of you here today to remember him.  On behalf of Bill, Jim’s husband, and Jim’s extended family……thank you so much for your loving presence.  Jim would be bursting with Gratitude!

 

In the course of this human experience of ours…..it is safe to say that Death is such a mystery for all of us—-is it not?  Whenever someone dies it is always a Sacred Moment—-for the world changes just a bit when a person crosses over from this world to the next.  Hopefully, this Sacred Moment can lead us today to a sense of wonder and awe at the mystery of our wild and woolly lives—-and to a thoughtful reflection on the Mystery of Death and Dying—-and most of all,  to support each other in compassion and love.

 

So….Bill, husband of Jim…..and Jack and Susan, and Donna, and Ruth and Frank who live in Florida and cannot be with us today, and BetteLou, and Cathy and Mary…..and niece and nephews and extended family—-we want you to know that we are so sorry for the death of Jim—-your husband, brother, uncle and friend.  For you are flesh of his flesh, and we offer you what we can today—-our heart-felt  friendship—our love—our faith and our presence.

 

For those of you who have heard me preach at a funeral before know that I like to use the following special quote from a 4th century spiritual writer and theologian by the name of Origen—–please forgive my repetition—but he says it so well:

 

“Be gentle with everyone.

For everyone carries a heavy burden.”

 

It’s so true, isn’t it…..that we all carry heavy burdens…..no matter who we are.  It is part of the human condition.  But when someone dies, the burden becomes just a bit more evident.  And so, as a Community of Friends and and members of Holy Wisdom Monastery—-we wish to be gentle with you family members—especially you, Bill.  We walk with you in your grief.

 

When I visited Jim and Bill about 5 weeks ago in their apartment to do some planning for this funeral—-and by the way, Jim, planned all of this down to the nth degree—I asked him if there was anything special that he wanted me to say in his funeral homily.  Jim said:  “Well, I don’t know……but I just don’t want you to make me out to be a “goody-two-shoes.  I’ve pulled some dandies in my life and I don’t want everyone there to think I was a “goody-two-shoes.”  And I said:  “Jim, we’ve all done things in our lives that we’re not very proud of.  We’re all a mixture of Darkness and Light.  I would like to speak about the light and goodness you’ve brought to others…..and I’ll do my best to try not to make you out to be a “goody-two-shoes.”  We both laughed.

 

There are Three Elements of Jim’s Life that all of us have experienced and that I would like to affirm this morning.

 

The First Element is this:  From top to bottom…..with all of his heart…..Jim was a passionate Disciple of Jesus.  It seems to me that everything Jim did flowed from his deep love of Christ.  Both of the readings that Jim chose for today for his funeral liturgy are centered in Christ.

 

From the Book of Romans we hear this powerful statement:

 

For I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Not death—not life—nor angels—nor rulers—not powers,

Nothing in all creation—Nothing”

 

Bidden or unbidden—God is present in Jesus!

 

And from the Gospel of Luke—the famous road to Emmaus Story—these words:

 

“Were not our hearts burning within us when he was talking to us on the road–

And we came to know him in the breaking of the bread.”

 

It seems to me that Jim was a Disciple of Jesus par excellence.  This discipleship was the source of all he did—the Ground of his being.  For Jim, Jesus was his Alpha and Omega….his beginning and end.

 

The Second Element of Jim’s life:  Jim was a Servant of Justice.

 

Jim saw what was broken in the world and did his level best to heal the wounds of that Brokenness.  He was involved in Social Justice in so many ways:  He was—-

  • Involved in the Moses Group-a statewide organization promoting racial equality and prison reform
  • A regional coordinator for the Catholic renewal group: “Call to Action”
  • Both Jim and Bill were longtime members of Dignity USA—fighting for equality for their LGBTQ brothers and sisters
  • A member of New Ways Ministry-supporting families of LGBTQ friends
  • A longtime member of the Madison chapter of Integrity/Dignity
  • A practiced spokesman in the art of speaking truth to power

 

As an example of this, I have a quote from a letter Jim sent to Cardinal George of Chicago a number of years ago, after the bishops had condemned New Ways Ministry:

 

“Bill and I have known and participated in New Ways Ministry retreats

And their outreach to families and parents of LGBTQ Catholics,

For 32 of their 33 years of existence.  They understand the unconditional

Love of Christ and are doing the work of the Holy Spirit in a church which

Continues to demonize them.  When a church looks only at “tradition”

And fails to listen to the lived experience of its LGBTQ people and their

Families, that is a church that is suffocating in its own patriarchal model.

LGBTQ human beings are not “objectively disordered”or “intrinsically evil.”

They are children of God.”

 

A SERVANT OF JUSTICE, INDEED!

 

 

The Third Element of Jim’s Life:  He was a man of deep Compassion & Generosity.

 

Jim lived the commandments of Jesus to love one another and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Jim was a quiet master of Generosity.  Jim gave himself generously to his fellow AA brothers and sisters.  Most of us here  know that Jim struggled with alcohol addiction in his early years.  But he had the courage to become sober….and he would have been sober 42 years this coming January.  But I am sure there are many AA friends of Jim’s her today whom he helped out.

 

Jim loved his Holy Wisdom Monastery community and was incredibly generous to so many here.  He loved the Sisters here and what they were doing in ways of justice for others.  He sung in the choir and enjoyed making beautiful music.  For years Jim and Bill headed up the Luke House Meal Program and often could be seen washing pots and pans in the kitchen in service of the Homeless.  Jim and Bill often opened their home to others who might be alone at Christmas or Thanksgiving.  Jim loved people and gave himself generously to others

 

And Bill…..it is important to say how much he loved you, his husband of almost 49 years.  Jim said to both of us just before he died that “you were his Rock.”

 

So these are the Three Elements of Jim’s Life we can celebrate today and be most grateful for.  I’m sure there is so much more.  And Jim, I trust that I have not portrayed you as a goody-two-shoes—but as a flesh and blood good, good man—who has done his best to be a disciple of Jesus—thus becoming a man of Justice, Compassion and Generosity for all of us.  We are all so deeply grateful.

 

And so, as we look around this Chapel-a place of prayer that Jim loved deeply—everywhere we signs of New Life & Resurrection—-our Easter Candle, with the light of Christ overcoming death and darkness—our flowers—the rich and beautiful white Resurrection garment covering Jim’s body and casket—-our loving prayers—the Breaking of the Bread and the sharing of the Cup—-the love among us in this room.

 

It all speaks of Life Beyond This Life—Resurrection!  This is not the end but a New Beginning!  Now Jim, you are not just working for Justice, or Discipleship, or Compassion and Generosity.  You ARE Justice, Compassion, Discipleship and Generosity itself….in Christ!  You are a bona-fide member of the Communion of Saints!  This is the faith we proclaim which gives us Hope in facing the Mystery of Death.

 

I would like to close with a very familiar prayer—-a prayer Jim must have said thousands of times at AA meetings.  A prayer familiar to all of us—-the Serenity Prayer.  I’m sure many of you know it.  Let’s pray it together now slowly…in gratitude for the strength it has given to Jim and to millions of others.

 

God grant me the Serenity,

To accept the things I cannot change.

The courage to change the things that I can.

And the wisdom to know the difference.

 

In the words of the ancient Latin Mass:  “REQUIESCAT IN PACE,” JIM.  REST IN PEACE—-REST IN PEACE.

 

 

 

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