Struck Down But Not Destroyed

Phyllis Mohr put her hands in my hands last Friday, looked me in the eye, and said, “Ed had no idea how much he was loved and respected by other United Methodist pastors.  The presence of each one of you means so much.”

When I first heard that my friend, Rev. Ed Mohr, died in a car-bike accident last Tuesday morning, I was shaken to the core.   Ed designed the current website for my blog, Leading from the Heart, and we were in touch last week about adding some widgets to the website.  Ed responded immediately, did his usual great job, and we had the following email conversation.

“Have you been riding this summer, Ed?  I am participating in a triathlon tomorrow morning in Grand Rapids, my only race of the summer.  Blessings, Laurie”

“Sure have been riding.  I’ve got almost 1,600 miles in and hope to make 2K.  Best of luck in your race.  God bless, Ed.”

“Wow! I’m impressed. That averages well over 100 miles a week during the summer.  Wish I could do that.  Maybe next year.”  Four days later Ed was gone.  He was 64 years old.

I respected Ed as a valued colleague and a techie who generously shared his expertise with novices like me, but I especially admired Ed for his passion for cycling.  Two  years ago I spent a day cycling 80 plus miles from Muskegon to Manistee with Ed as part of the West Michigan Conference Ride for Haiti.  It was a gorgeous, but long day with many hills that taxed our physical energy and mental fortitude.  However, no one heard a word of complaint from Ed, who kept grinding away on his bike and did double duty at night as the HaitiRide webmaster.  This past June Ed participated in the Ride for Haiti for the third time with his new 2012 Mercier Corvus AL bike.

What I loved most about Ed was that he followed his bliss.  1,900 years ago St. Irenaeus was no doubt referring to Ed when he said, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.”  Ed had a gift for technology, owned an electronics store for many years, and loved to use his expertise to assist others.  In mid-life Ed felt a call to ministry and served eight years as a United Methodist pastor.  His congregations fell in love with Ed because he was always looking for someone to help, someone with whom to share Jesus, and someone to mentor and guide.

When Ed Mohr was outside on his bike, though, he was fully alive.  As his family described it, cycling was Ed’s therapy, his time to think, his opportunity to become one with creation.   Because Ed lived a rich, balanced, and fulfilling life, he was a highly effective pastor to his congregations.

Tragically, road cycling can be a dangerous hobby as well as an abiding passion.  Every cyclist knows the risks involved, including vicious dogs, speeding cars, and no bike lanes or shoulders.  We try to minimize the danger as much as possible by riding in groups, avoiding headphones, using less traveled roads, and obeying all traffic rules.  Unfortunately, we are at the mercy of drivers who use cell phones, are occasionally distracted by food, drink, and conversation, and sometimes make a game of driving as close to cyclists as possible.

When Ed emailed that he had already ridden 1,600 miles this summer, my first reaction was, “You’re a braver person than I am, Ed.  I don’t often ride the roads alone because I am fearful of accidents, which means that I don’t get as many miles in as I’d like.  I wish I could be more like you because you don’t let fear hold you back.”

What a wonderful celebration of Ed’s life and faith we experienced at Gobles United Methodist Church on Friday.  Ed and Phyllis’ blended family testified to their joy in the midst of deep sorrow, their laughter in the midst of tears, and their faith in the midst of grief.  The scripture that especially spoke to me was 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

Yes, Ed Mohr was struck down by a car, but he was not destroyed.  Yes, Ed’s earthly life is finished, but his eternal life has begun.  Yes, Ed is absent in the body, but he is home in the Lord.  Praise God for a disciple of Jesus Christ who used his gifts to the fullest.  Praise God for a servant who felt compelled to leave a profession he loved for a vocation he loved even more.  Praise God for a man who dedicated his life to be present with the flocks he was called to lead as shepherd.

The sanctuary on Friday was full to overflowing.   Many clergy colleagues traveled long distances to honor the life of a fellow pastor.  People came from the communities in which Ed lived and served throughout his life.  Some were not even United Methodists but had been touched in some way by Ed’s ministry.

The pews were also filled with members of Ed’s current congregations: courageous, faith-filled, grief-stricken disciples who had lost their leader.  It’s not supposed to happen that way, is it?   And then there was Bishop Deborah Kiesey, having just begun her ministry last week, taking time to be present to the family of a pastor she had never met and congregations who were now part of her Michigan flock.  The presence of every single person was a blessing.     

At the end of the Service of Death and Resurrection we commended Ed to God, “Receive Ed Mohr into the arms of your mercy.  Raise Ed up, with all your people.  Receive us, also, and raise us into a new life.  Help us so to love and serve you in this world that we may enter into your joy in the world to come.”  Ed may have been struck down, but he has not been destroyed, and his legacy will live on in his friends and family.  How, then, shall we live, mindful of the gift of Ed’s life?

  • Savor each moment.

Even if you are afflicted, you don’t have to be crushed.  Even if you are perplexed, you don’t have to be driven to despair.  Even if you are persecuted, you don’t have to be forsaken.  Find joy in each day, for all we have is the present.  Don’t wait until tomorrow because tomorrow may never come.  Live now, love now, for every day is complete and a gift in itself.

  • Do not live in fear because life is unpredictable.

Don’t hide in your room because the world is a dangerous place.  Don’t hold back.  Don’t be a dead person walking around.  Follow your passion, but be prudent.  Count the cost but determine to be fully alive.  Risk all.  As T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  Take a deep breath and go for it!

  • Don’t waste time on anger and bitterness. 

You only have so much energy and time in this world.  Focus on the positive energy of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace-making.   In 2 Corinthians 5:18, the apostle Paul urges us to become a new creation in Christ and says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.”  What relationships do you need to mend now?

  • Be a clay jar by making the life of Jesus visible in your brokenness. 

Paul says, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)   Each one of you lives a sorrowful life.  Yet precisely because you bear the scars of pain, disappointment, and dashed hopes, you become wounded healers.

Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, draw closer to one another, keep on keeping on together, and even carry one another when life’s journey becomes too heavy.  And when the day comes that you fall down, just as Ed fell off his bike last week, may you, like Ed, fall right into the arms of Jesus. 

     Hallelujah!  Struck down, but not destroyed.