Unamuno, the Spanish philosopher said that the chief purpose of a temple is a place where people come to weep in common. On this sad day we have made proper use of this Temple yet again because we come, one and all, to grieve, to weep together.
We weep for dear Pat--whose far-reaching and splendid journey did not last long enough., We weep for Zelma who has stood by so faithfully for 48 years. We weep for Laura and Stephen and all the members of this family. We weep as colleagues and friends because he was a member of our tribe. And so we've come from far and wide to weep...for Pat, for his family and for us all.
I cannot add much to all these fine tributes and recollections that would have made Pat very proud. But listening to this collage of memories I am reminded of Mary Oliver's beautiful words: "I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."
Pat Pattillo was no visitor. He was a citizen of wherever he lived and whatever he did. Always engaged--brimming with ideas--committed whether it was at the University of Georgia or Louisville or Samford or Florida or Hong Kong or New York. His record is breathtaking. No, Pat you were no visitor.
I first met him in Louisville. He served the Seminary in so many goods ways. He stretched its influence far and wide--he connected alumni--he told, over and over, the Louisville story. He left his mark. Our paths criss-crossed through the years and he and Zelma walked down the aisle one Sunday and joined this church while I was Pastor.
They were both committed to this place. Pat, came in one day and said, "We need to help this community get to know this church better. People drive by here all the time and don't know that this is a church. When people pass here they need to take notice." So he helped design banners that would draw attention to The Baptist Church of the Covenant. Flapping in the breeze people would see our name. They served their purpose. He helped frame the logo that is used to this day. A Cross--standing at the crossroads in the heart of this city. He'd wanted people to know that there was a place- a special place--where all would be welcomed and no one would be turned away. He and Zelma were faithful members. They both helped in their own special ways. Helping to put their church on the heart of the Birmingham community.
We've heard about the Seminary and Samford and Florida and Hong Kong and New York. Everywhere he went he left fingerprints all over the place. And in their retirement he and Zelma came back here and found their place and still made a difference. Sometimes when we would visit back here he would say: "I can't stay long I have a Committee meeting at the church."
So we thank God that we knew him...that we worked with him...that our lives and the institutions he served were far better because he did so much more than merely visiting his many-colored world.
So Unamuno was right. We really do come to weep together. But more--to be reminded that at the heart of life--our lives--Pat's life--his family's life--there is a special promise. Listen closely and we will hear that tom-tom beat from beginning to the end of the book. Listen and you may hear the promise even today. These words: "I will be with you...I will not leave you desolate...I will come to you." We find that promise all over the place in different ways and stanzas. In those dark, gloomy exile days when God's people did not think they could stand that cursed exile another day--Isaiah, one of them, spoke to his broken people. There would come one , he said, who would heal their broken hearts. And Jeremiah speaking to that same congregation of the fearful told them, "There really is a balm in Gilead."
Jesus much later would unroll that same Isaiah scroll in his first sermon and read the promise: "I have come to heal the broken- hearted." And our Lord would tell them that even in their mourning they would find a blessedness.
And so when it looked like the story had run its course, Mary stood by his tomb one dark Easter morning. Someone spoke to her and asked, "Why are you weeping?" She told this gardener that she had lost so much when Jesus died. But that morning she discovered that she was not talking to the gardener after all. For when he called her name...her name...she knew who it was.
My prayer that in our grief today and in the days to come...we will, one way or another, hear our named called: Zelma...Laura...Stephen...Pastor Sarah...Roger--all of us. And we will know that in our own circuitous journeys--we are not alone even when we, like Mary, think we are. For he calls our names and this will be enough.
Thank God for this good man who did far more than just unpack his suitcase and visit for 75 years. Thank God that under the shadow of this Cross we remember, too that we are not alone. And even in our weepings and our griefs we will remember those wondrous words that come from the Psalter. It was a hard time. A troubled time. A dark time. But this is what some nameless writer has left for us: "Weeping may last for a night"...dear God it seems so endless--but that is not the end of the story. "Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes to one and all in the morning."
For Pat...for Zelma...for this family and for us all. Thanks be to God.
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com