Writing is therapy for me. When I find myself at a loss for words or struggling to cope or longing for resolution, I write. Here I am this morning, heartbroken, at a loss, in shock, and in need of therapy, so I write. We received word this morning that my dear friend Joe died unexpectedly in the night. I don’t know what to say…
Joe was a retired clergy, though right now I cannot remember the particular flavor of church with which he was affiliated. He was certainly a pastor. Joe called me his pastor. He was an encourager and friend. Now and then he would say to me as he stuck his head in my office door, “I’m glad you are my pastor.” To which I would usually reply, “Likewise Joe, likewise.” I really liked it when he would come out of one of our Celebration Services on Sunday morning and say, “Thanks Pastor, I really felt like I was in church this morning.” Joe, on more than one level was a pastor to me, and I am thankful for his life and his influence on not just my ministry but his impact on my life.
Joe was an extremely humble and gentle soul, who spoke in a soft voice that drew from a deep, deep well of wisdom and faith. I will remain here with visible tangible reminders of his place in my journey. There graces one portion of my office wall a photo he took of the Keeper here in Wichita which I purchased some time back at a church sale. We have his photography in our home as well. Joe had an eye for simple, gorgeous, beauty and his photography is exquisite.
On another wall in my office is a gift Joe gave me a couple of years ago. I had done a sermon series on the teachings of Jesus and The Buddha. He brought me a framed prayer that he said hung in his bathroom. It is simply titled “Buddhist Prayer.” Joe told me a friend of his came out of the bathroom one day and said they didn’t realize Joe was Buddhist, and I don’t know that he was but I do know of his deep rooted faith in Christ and he was certainly open to the wisdom and beauty of multiple faith traditions and from my experience of Joe the prayer certainly fits who he is, who he was for me.
If anyone has hurt me or harmed me knowingly or unknowingly in thought, word, or deed, I freely forgive them. And I too ask forgiveness if I have hurt anyone or harmed anyone knowingly or unknowingly in thought, word, or deed.
May I be happy,
May I be peaceful,
May I be free.
May my friends be happy,
May my friends be peaceful,
May my friends be free.
May my enemies be happy,
May my enemies be peaceful,
May my enemies be free.
May all things be happy,
May all things be peaceful,
May all things be free.
Not that I didn’t see Joe in these words each time I read them as they held to their space on my wall, but somehow this morning these words speak even more profoundly of the man who gifted me with the wisdom of these words.
Today my soul is heavy, my heart is broken, the tears come easily and I will trudge through this day to the next. And somewhere deep in my soul and the recesses of my heart and mind Joe is still here and I can hear his quiet gentle voice saying, “Well, enough of this, get up and move on,” which is what he would want. The world is a better place because it knew Joe. I am a better pastor because I knew Joe for these short three years, and not only that I am a better person because I knew Joe for these short three years, and our church is a better more gentle place because Joe Weigel was, is, and will always be a deep and abiding presence here in our midst at College Hill. Goodbye my friend, you will be missed.