For God So Loved …

Sunday Worship at Black Forest Community Church
Black Forest, CO
October 25, 2015 – Daniel & Fern Imbody’s Farewell Service and New

Member Sunday

© Rev. Diane Kay Martin

“For God So Loved …”

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Today we say farewell to Daniel & Fern Imbody, who have been active members of this congregation for many years. Many of you may not know that Daniel & Fern live in Fountain. Way down in Fountain—no kidding—a 40-minute drive on a good day. Daniel, a very young 90 years of age, and Fern, a very spunky 88. And that makes us appreciate all the more the fact that they chose this as their church that they faithfully attended, not to mention all of the amazing fellowship times they have prepared and provided for us.

I met with Daniel & Fern this week. We had a really nice visit—lots of laughs and lots of storytelling. They treated me to a lovely lunch at the Country Buffet and sent me on my way. I want to share with you a few things about Daniel & Fern’s life.

First of all, their favorite Bible verse is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who [or “whosoever”] believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 is the Christian faith in a nutshell. It just kind of takes us back to the basis of our faith—back to the beginning—back to why we became Christians in the first place.

Speaking of going back to the beginning … It was in 1720 that Daniel’s ancestors arrived in Pennsylvania from Switzerland. His great-great-grandfather served in General Washington’s army at Valley Forge. Another relative, named Daniel Imbody, served during the Civil War and is buried at Arlington Cemetery. Yes, the Imbodys go way back in U.S. history. And in UCC history. The congregation that Daniel grew up in was an Old German Reformed church—one of the predecessor denominations of the UCC—and it was founded in 1736. The services were held in German, and those who wanted a service in English had to build a new church across the street. Fern was confirmed Lutheran, but she joined Daniel’s church when they got married. For them, faith was a given, and church was an event. Daniel & Fern have eight children, and all of them always went to church in their Sunday best. It’s just how it was in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It’s just what you did. It’s how you honored the Lord. The girls wore matching dresses, purses, gloves and shoes; the boys wore suits and ties. You couldn’t receive the offering unless you were in a suit. It was a matter of respect. “For God so loved the world,” and this is one way God’s people reciprocated. …

Romans 8:38-39 is another of Daniel & Fern’s favorite Bible passages: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Speaking of angels … Daniel had a fascinating experience back in 1948. He had been assigned to patrol the border between Czechoslovakia and Germany, and his job was to rescue refugees and escort them to safety. His Jeep could carry four refugees at a time, and it was a perilous 8-miles, one way, to get them to shelter. One night his Jeep was already full of refugees and he became aware of a large group—maybe 12 more people—who needed transport. He knew how long this would take and what the risks were if it didn’t happen quickly. He remembers saying aloud, “Good God, I need help,” and in the next instant, seeing headlights approaching. He ran toward the vehicle to wave it down, and saw that it was an empty stake-bed truck that would easily be able to haul all of the refugees. When the driver pulled over, Daniel slipped him the customary bribe—a pack of cigarettes, which were worth their weight in gold in that war zone—and asked him to take the refugees to safety. The driver agreed, loaded up, and followed Daniel to the station. When both trucks got to the safe zone, they unloaded their precious cargo, and Daniel turned back to thank the other driver. But just as suddenly as it had appeared, the truck had already vanished. Truck and driver both were gone!

Daniel remains convinced to this day that that driver was an angel who was sent in response to his plea for help. I wondered aloud with Daniel & Fern about two things: Was there something special that God had planned for at least one of those refugees? And, assuming the driver was an angel, what does it say about him that he accepted Daniel’s bribe of cigarettes? J Hmmm…

Daniel & Fern’s third favorite Bible verse is Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity [in some translations, goodness], faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Speaking of the Spirit … Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? Have you ever felt your spirit was in a place outside of your body? I did, when I was 17 and crashed my boyfriend’s old ’66 Ford on an icy bridge on the Mississippi River Road. I fishtailed right into an oncoming car and went into shock just before impact. Just for a moment, I saw the accident from above, and in the next instant, I was waking up inside the wreckage.

Daniel & Fern each had a similar experience that to this day they cannot explain. Once during a very complicated childbirth, Fern found herself walking in a field of indescribably beautiful flowers with her mother. The puzzling thing is that in most experiences like this that we hear about, the person who meets us “on the other side” has already passed on, but in Fern’s case, her mother was still living at the time. Maybe it was a sign from God that Fern was also to return to the living—that her days on earth were far from over, but she just needed a brief respite from her current physical trauma.

Daniel’s experience may have been for the same reason. His happened during basic training. It was during an extended march. He doesn’t remember feeling particularly fatigued, but who can argue with the Spirit? Daniel remembers, for several minutes, watching the march from above, seeing his legs moving, stepping in perfect time, marveling that someone else must be moving them because he certainly wasn’t. Then, after several minutes, all was normal again. Who knows? Maybe God saw that Daniel needed a little break too.

There’s a common thread through all of these verses. There’s a common thread through all of these stories—from things as mundane as dressing children each week in their Sunday best, to things as mysterious as stake-bed trucks appearing out of nowhere in the night, to things as enigmatic as the feeling of escaping the physical for a moment. And that thread is God’s enduring presence with us—every second of every day. The common thread is God’s love—love—“for God so loved”—“nothing can separate us from the love”—“the fruit of the Spirit is love.” Daniel & Fern, you are loved, by God and by us. And you will be missed. May God be with you till we meet again. Amen.