Sermon: Funeral for Kornel Kondy

Sermon for 27 July 2013, Funeral for Kornel Kondy

The Rev. Theo Park

A printable PDF file of this sermon is available here: 20130727 - Kornel Kondy - The Rev. Theo Park

When someone we know and love dies, it can be very painful for us. Our heart aches. That person is no longer with us, and we miss him. That’s what you who have gathered today are experiencing now with our brother Kornel. You miss him today, and you will continue to miss him. What a tribute it is that so many of you are here. It says that Kornel Kondy was someone you got to know, and you loved him, and it is important to pay your respect to his memory. Yet still, on some level his death hurts, and understandably so. Even when you had months to get ready for this day-- even so, it doesn’t take away the loss felt at this time.

I did not know Kornel, to experience that loss personally, but my heart warms to what his long-time friend Irene wrote in a recent letter: “How does a friendship of almost half a century develop and never break? When I search my memory I remember your kind and gentle interactions with those around you, and I remember the smile you shared so easily. It was easy and pleasant to be with you. You were a giver, a "good neighbor," a good friend. There were gaps, as our careers moved forward and developed, but when our roads crossed again, our friendship did not change. Yes. We were friends--nothing changed and time did not wipe it out. When I think of this I remember the story you told me about correspondence with your Mom. She complained that you did not write enough, and she suggested that even a few words or a dot is a good contact. With a touch of humor, you sent her a postcard with a dot on it!”

There it is in a nutshell: relationship with those we love, those present and those who have died, is all about dotting the connections.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” the fourth gospel has Jesus tell his disciples. “I go to prepare a place for you.” We are promised an on-going relationship with Christ, one that can never break. “I will prepare a place for Kornel. I will prepare a place for you.” This is what the gospel says to us today, and it gives us great comfort in the face of loss. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” We are called to faith, to trust in God’s goodness and to trust in God’s representative, namely, Jesus the Christ.

But what are we to believe about Christ and about his going away, that this should give us any comfort? What sort of place is being prepared, and what does this have to do with our losing Kornel and missing him and the prospect of even more deaths to come, including our own? I really can’t tell you. I really can’t. There are many interpretations in scripture and theology about what life after death is all about; you’ll have to take your pick. What I can tell you, unequivocably, is that the Prayer Book basically says that everyone--every single human being ever-- is designed to go to heaven; perhaps that’s what those many rooms are all about. And that heaven is spending eternity in the joy of fully knowing and loving God. But whether that means we put on golden slippers and walk golden streets or whether the subatoms of our being are joined to a great cloud of creativity: well, to quote an old mentor of mine: “Ees holy meestery.”

However, we who choose to follow Christ as our pathway to God, who bear his name, profess that he has been raised, that death could not hold him...or us. And so the burial liturgy we observe today is an Easter liturgy, a celebration of life. This is the faith by which Kornel lived and in which he died: that even when all things have passed away there will still be newness and fullness of life. This is the promise of everlasting life in God’s presence.

This is the place that is prepared for us. We get a glimpse of it in the visions of the author of Revelation: A new heaven and a new earth, where, as the choir will sing later, God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore....” No more tears, like the tears of separation we shed when we lose a loved one. None of that. No more death, that ugly intruder. No more pain, no more suffering from the ravages of age and disease. Surely Kornel anticipated this when he asked The Rev. Trish Cunningham for last rites, the Church’s threshold sacrament, while he was still present.

Having left this earthly habitation, Kornel Kondy now is in the presence of the Lord. He rests from his labors. His soul is with the Lord. He is at peace. His place in God’s presence is secure. And how fitting it is, how telling of the person Kornel must have been, that in sure and certain hope of his own resurrection to eternal life, Kornel’s choice of a closing hymn for this service is a prayer for those who remain: “God be with you ‘til we meet again.” With the gospeller, Kornel is leaving us a message, his last postcard; we have only to connect the dots: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe in Christ. There is a place prepared.”

This sermon was created by The Rev. Theo Park for The Episcopal Church of Gethsemane, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sources are credited where applicable.