John 15:12-17 NRSV “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
I cannot recall exactly when I first met David. I remember that we first began to see in one another a kindred spirit the year I was a liturgist with other clergy at St. Paul’s Episcopal church for a service of readings and liturgy accompanying the stations of the cross in Holy Week. Following that service David and I met for coffee and realized right away that we both were keenly interested in liturgy. Many more conversations followed and through the years our friendship grew deeper as we studied topics together and shared our libraries with one another. David loved poetry and we passed many a poem between us - particularly the poetry of T.S. Elliot and of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
At the time I taught a Thursday evening program in spiritual formation and David and Bets were always faithfully present. More than once I called on David in the days running up to a program to ask if he had already written something on that topic. More often than not he had, and David was always generous to share his research with me. David was a voracious reader and he had a thorough understanding of the sources of Christian spiritual formation.
We don’t often find people whose spirit is resonant with our own - at least I have not often found them. I suppose that is why I feel so deeply the absence of my friend David. I was able to sit with David the morning of his death. He was already near the end when I arrived at the hospital (having been out of the country for several weeks). I prayed with David and said my goodbyes. That morning as I walked through the parking lot of the hospital I was thinking of a poem David and I had shared with one another and which seemed to me to speak so meaningfully to the moment. I offer it below in his memory.
The Lantern out of Doors
SOMETIMES a lantern moves along the night,
That interests our eyes. And who goes there?
I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where,
With, all down darkness wide, his wading light?
Men go by me whom either beauty bright
In mould or mind or what not else makes rare:
They rain against our much-thick and marsh air
Rich beams, till death or distance buys them quite.
Death or distance soon consumes them: wind
What most I may eye after, be in at the end
I cannot, and out of sight is out of mind.
Christ minds: Christ’s interest, what to avow or amend
There, éyes them, heart wánts, care haúnts, foot fóllows kínd,
Their ránsom, théir rescue, ánd first, fást, last friénd.
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.