Pastor Dale Griffin is one of those Gospel centered people who makes an impression on your life. I met Dale three years ago and I couldn’t believe how quick his mind was and how vast his wisdom. We would talk theology and the church for hours. He was the type of Pastor I hope to be: generous, loving, deep, and gracious.
Likewise, Dale has chosen deep and gracious scripture passages for his burial. The first is 2 Corinthians 5:11-15.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Dale is known to God. That was central to his identity. Everyone who knew him knew that whether it was his housekeeper, his physical therapist or his neighbor. Glendale Lutheran church sure knows it. This week I’ve been asking everyone I call if they heard about Dale’s passing. I hear a disappointed yes on the other end but it quickly turns to a smile as they remember him. His faith was woven into the fabric of our church. Long time member Jack Rutter told me that his family came to Glendale Lutheran because of Dale. Jack heard Dale on KFUO radio and wanted to know the person behind the voice. Dale and the church welcomed the Rutter’s in with open arms.
This passage also speaks of the believer no longer living for self but for him who for their sake died and was raised. That was Dale. He was selfless even when it must have been hard not to be. His body wore out but he never complained. He was interested in hearing about your life and the life of his friends in the church. Dale lived for Jesus and he invested in others.
Dale also chose Psalm 121.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From whence does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.
This week I was struck by the phrase “He who keeps you will not slumber.” Dale did a lot of sleeping lately. He told me not to come visit him before lunch because he’d be in bed. Even when I came in the afternoon, sometimes he’d be back asleep. The last time I gave him communion he fell asleep between the bread and the wine. He couldn’t help himself. His body was wearing out. But we can take solace in the fact that the Lord never sleeps. Our faith depends on him who is always at the controls and not us. The Lord kept Dale’s comings and goings before and he keeps them now. God is faithful and Dale rests in that.
Another Dale passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
I can hear Dale comforting us with these words. He was comforted with this passage when his beloved wife Marge died. That is another thing I’ve heard over and over again about Dale is his love of his wife. Their marriage had a big impact on the people of my congregation. They saw how they loved each other in life. They saw how Dale mourned her in death. And now they rejoice to know that they experience the resurrection of the dead. We say every Sunday that we believe in the resurrection of the dead. Dale held onto that hope dearly. It blessed him in his time of mourning and it will bless us during our time.
The final scripture chosen by Dale was John 20:26-30, the story of Thomas.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
This is an unusual text for a funeral but it fits Dale. He was born on St Thomas Day so of course he would pick it. He had such a love for history, the church and tradition that this became special to him. I think he had some things in common with Thomas as well. Some think of doubt as the opposite of faith when it is really a companion to it. Thomas may not have been stubbornly denying the resurrection but curious and wanted to experience the risen Lord himself. Dale was a very curious person who voraciously investigated historical and theological topics. His Bible studies and sermons were legendary for their biblical details. He helped create publications for Concordia Publishing house. Dale organized teaching resources for church workers through synod. He studied the scriptures like Thomas studied the hands and side of Jesus. He was fascinated and changed by the scriptures and this illuminated others.
I am sad and miss my friend and mentor. It is ok to mourn our loss. We’re disappointed that we couldn’t have a church funeral where his friends and family could gather. But we also rejoice over the life Christ gave him. He lived from the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 to the Coronavirus epidemic of 2020. In between, Pastor Dale Griffin lived a rich life, dedicated to the Gospel. He was a blessing to his family, his church and everyone who ever met him.