Saturday, August 12, 2017


It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
                                                               Lamentations 3: 26
It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

What we believe about death
         and what comes after death
         makes all the difference for what we believe about life.
It’s a kind of vantage point from which we look at life.

Buddhism and Christianity take starkly different views on this.
Most of you know, I respect Buddhism and believe
         we could learn a thing or two from our Buddhist friends.
But there is this basic difference.

Buddhism doesn’t believe in the soul,
         but it does teach reincarnation.
This was confusing to one young American student.
So, he asked his teacher, “If there is no soul, what is reincarnated?”
The teacher answered, “It is your bad habits.”
The idea of reincarnation is that we need to scrub away all our faults
         and that takes more than one lifetime.
But eventually, once we have scrubbed away our faults,
         there is nothing of us left; so, we just cease to be.
Non-existence is as good as it gets
because there is nothing in us worth saving.

Christianity takes the opposite view.
We say God is a vast immensity of love,
         that we are created by God’s love
sustained by God’s love,
         and that makes us good.
God says we are good.

We may get twisted a bit, we may go off course,
         but our soul, the core of who we are
         is fundamentally good.

 We come from the heart of God,
         we return to the heart of God,
         and we are never cut off from the heart of God.
God does not forget the goodness he has made.
Nothing good dies forever.
It all lives on in the heart of God and will manifest again
         in God’s time and in God’s way.

That is a general truth for all humanity.
But God’s love for us isn’t just a general attitude.
God doesn’t just love all of us in general.
God loves each of us particularly
         for being the unique person that each of us is.
Theologian Karl Rahner said,
         Each of us is a unique irreplaceable word of God

That means there are not just four gospels.
Every human life is a gospel.
Irv Cousin’s life was a gospel, so what does it say?

It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Irv was a quiet man, a private man.
As an only child, he spent a lot of time alone reading
         and he kept that practice up all his life.
Growing up in a military family,
         he didn’t have a chance to be part of the school cliques.
He learned to keep his own counsel
         and enjoy his own company.

John Milton said,
         Solitude is sometimes the best society.
Thoreau said,
         I love to be alone.
         I never found the companion that was so companionable
                  as solitude.
Lord Byron wrote,
         Then stirs the feeling infinite so felt
         In solitude where we are least alone.
Or in the language of our day, punk singer Henry Rollins said,
         Loneliness adds beauty to life.
         It puts a special burn on sunsets
         and makes night air smell better.

In Irv’s privacy, something precious grew.
It was a profound dignity.
Our collect for the 2nd Sunday in Christmas says that,
         God . . . wonderfully created
         and yet more wonderfully restored the dignity
         of human nature . . ..
In our Baptismal Covenant, we vow
         to respect the dignity of every human being.

In our time, dignity is hard to find.
In an era of reality television sapheads
         and buffoons posing as political pundits,
         we long for someone we can respect.
Irv Cousins was easy to respect.
He showed us what human dignity looks like.
He showed us what graciousness looked like.
These are not just manners and style.
Dignity is something good that God created
         and reveals to us thorugh people like Irv
         to show us a piece of what we are called to become.
Human dignity is part and parcel of the gospel.

Irv was a private man,
         but he was not an island.
He connected with others by serving them.
He served his church in Maryland as their Treasurer.
Then he served our diocese as Treasurer and Finance Officer
         for 18 years, across the tenures of three bishops.
While the rest of us did Church in all too visible and audible ways,
         Irv was quietly keeping the ship afloat.

 Because he was not too enamored of his own voice,
         Irv had the vital spiritual gift of listening.
When he listened to you, his attention was undivided.
James 1: 19 says,
         Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.
That was Irv Cousins.

He could listen to you in a way that said, “you matter.”
He took people seriously.
Irv had human dignity because he respected the dignity of others.
He showed that respect by the way he listened.

Christina Rossetti said,
         Silence is the most beautiful music
Benjamin Disraeli echoed
         Silence is the mother of truth.
Irv had the dignity, the wisdom, and the compassion
         to keep still and listen others into life.

This is not just an individual character trait.
It is not an accident of nature and nurture.
Irv’s way of being in this world
         was a virtue created by God.
It was, as Rahner said,
         a unique, irreplaceable word of God.

Irv’s family will not be the only ones to miss him.
We all will.
The world needs Irv’s way of being now more than ever.
Maybe some of the rest of us will have to take up
         some of the slack by becoming a bit more like him.
I know I want to be more like him.
But no one can take his place.
We will miss him dearly.

Our consolation is
         that Irv Cousins came from the heart of God,
         he returns to the heart of God,
         he was never cut off from the heart of God.
He was a good man if ever there was one,
         and nothing good dies forever.