Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nunc dimittus

Can you have a mentor that you only interacted with for a brief part of your life?  A person who was huge for about 3 years or so, who you had a personal connection with but then basically related to only via his/her writings, public interviews, etc...?

This morning I saw the news that the Rev. Professor Peter Gomes had joined the Church Triumphant (for those not in "the know", that is church speak for died) on Monday.  Only a week ago I learned from my dad (via David Gergen, long story) that Gomes had suffered a stroke...and then this morning, through Facebook, I saw the article that he was gone.

My sense of loss at his death is palpable.  Although I hadn't corresponded with him in years and the last time I was in his presence was at Luther Seminary, where he was visiting and preaching and I was honored to his assisting minister, the knowledge that he was there made the world a bit more stable for me.

In my mind I immediately thought of the scene from A Few Good Men where Kaffee confronts Jessep about his leadership, and Jessep replies that "You need me on that wall!"  I needed Peter Gomes on that wall.  I needed to know that he was thinking, writing, preaching and leading that community at Harvard.

I needed to know that someday another 18 year old freshman, scared, lonely and far from home.  Lost in his own self doubt and academic failure could hear the bells of Memorial Church ring on a Sunday morning and if he or she bothered to stroll the 100 yards from bed to pew, would be both comforted and challenged by the proclamation of a God who loved them and expected them to do something with their life.  That they were blessed to be a blessing and that if they could understand their place in the history of the school they might recognize that God is still the center of Harvard as God has been since 1636. Whether those within or without who could call us Godless, recognized it.

Almost two years ago I was asked to preside (presumably being one of the only clergymen of my class) at the memorial service for our 10th Class Reunion.  I wrote a little reflection for the day and thought about sending it to Gomes, but never did.  Probably out of self doubt again, wondering would he think it silly or trite?  

Perhaps, and he was not one to mince words or critique.  But I centered my reflection on a memorial that stands in his beloved Memorial Church to the Harvard students who died fighting for Germany in the first world war.  A memorial that has always meant a great deal to me (maybe because I am Lutheran) as it acknowledged that those who came to Harvard came from many places and with many allegiances.  We were drawn for many reasons and cut from different clothes but ultimately were united by our bond of being a part of our University.  So Peter, we remember you, and we give thanks for you as we give thanks for those that have gone before and we trust that another will come to lead in your absence.


Peter Gomes was cut from a different cloth, but today I give thanks that one more of the 10,000 claimed victory today.

1 comment:

  1. I can feel and hear the grief in your writing! I'm glad that you can say that you knew and were affected by this man. And small words though they be, I am truly sorry for your loss in his death, but I am more sorry for the loss to the community of faith.