Some were wondering why he would wear a Tiger cap to his father's funeral. After all, this son was a full-grown man, not some little child who didn't know any better. However, as is often the case, those who were doing the 'wondering' were the ones who really didn't know.
His father was a second cousin to my wife. His mother a first cousin of hers, and a life-long friend of mine. The family is one with whom we have done many and varied things over +50 years of friendship. We were privileged to be with them as Tim was escorted by our Good Shepherd from this vale of tears to his eternal home. At the funeral service our youngest helped carry the casket of his God-father. And that baseball cap, if not on top of the head, was never more than an arm's length away.
God in Christ was vividly at work on Friday while Tim took one last, deep breath as his pastor said, "Tim, go in peace." The audience for that scene was small, only ten of us were gathered about the hospital bed in the living room. The audience swelled to a couple hundred yesterday. Together we sang hymns of praise. We cried and we laughed. It was a true 'best practice' rally celebrating Christ's victory over sin, death and the devil.
At the heart of it all was Gospel proclamation: God's greatest gifts in Christ to us, his people, are faith, hope and love. Faith in Christ Jesus, given to us in our baptism, carries us through our weaknesses, struggles and griefs. Hope, that certain and constant assurance that, just as Jesus came back to life as promised, so is his every word a word of truth. And love, the greatest of these, because it is a rally of encouragement, peace and joy that has no end.
"Faith," we are told, "comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Romans 10.17) Faith grows in strength and depth through the same. That's why we read God's Word every day, and why we make certain we hear it in multiple ways on a regular basis. All life-stories include sorrow and grief, struggles, failures and betrayals, but, thanks be to God, we have been given rally caps in the Gospel of Christ … and "we are not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." (Romans 1.16)
"Faithfulness," a friend told me many years ago, "is a long journey in the same direction." Our Savior's cross and empty tomb guide the way (You can ask my wife about what happens when we take our eyes off the cross). The rally continues as our Word-fed hope not only lifts us up, but also empowers us to support and encourage one-another along the way (and, the Lord knows we all need that support and encouragement). Many are the times we cry out, "How long, oh Lord, how long will this lengthy journey continue?" And each time Christ Jesus has a gospel gift ready - delivered incarnationally, and often in surprising ways - that keeps our rally caps firmly in place.
And, speaking of caps, it turns out that the one Kyle kept constantly close was his father's Tiger cap. It served as a constant reminder of his father's love … and was carried in commitment to carrying that same type of love through future generations. With Christ in the center, we rally together and for one another, as our heavenly Father blesses us with faith, hope and love.
So, my friends, what is your rally cap looking like today?