All You Need Is Love
Homily for Ray Wishart
Saturday morning, August 27, 2016
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Panama City, Florida
The Reverend Tom Weller
I shall speak of Love: the love of Jesus. You may be seated.
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
Jesus said “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another. As I have loved you, that you love one another. By this, all will know you are my disciples, that you love one another.”
Now abide faith, hope, and Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.
Hundreds upon hundreds of friends and students and family who love Ray Wishart and know he loved us, flooded the air with memories this week, memories and stories. More stories and memories last evening at Mosley High School, in the most extraordinary burst of love and gratitude I’ve ever known.
My mind also has been filled with stories. One: that years ago, Ray and I mentored an Education for Ministry group here at St. Andrew's Church on Monday evenings. There were twelve of us. We often began with Holy Communion here in this room, and the Gospel was always “Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: thou shalt love …”
Some forty years ago, perhaps it was evening, a young man in hippie beard and long hair meets a pretty and appealing girl, and is bowled over, head over heels in love at first sight. He asks her, “Will you marry me?” Somewhat taken aback, she says, “Maybe we should date and get to know each other first.” Ray and Diane married these nearly forty years, and Ray Wishart last Monday morning before he rode away into eternity on his bicycle, still as smitten in love as that first evening forty years ago, booking a love boat cruise with the Love of his Life.
Round the table in my office conference room at Holy Nativity, another EfM group gathers for Wednesday evening seminar, (it is one of three EfM groups Ray and I are mentoring together at the time) Ray sitting at the table - Rebekah comes in, leans over, puts her arms around her daddy, hugs him, kisses his head, and whispers something. Watching this, I’m thinking, “I wish a daughter loved me that much, like that, and not caring who sees it, knows it.”
Summer 2007, we are planning a wedding. I never preach at weddings, but Rachelle and Don want me to preach anyway. Somehow or other, I don’t recall, almost a decade ago, Ray tells me they’re moving to Orlando, they have little money, I think Ray said Rachelle did not have a job yet, Ray says they think all they need is love and that’s not true. Ray and I talk about the Yellow Submarine, and so the wedding theme in my mind becomes the Beatles’ hit song, “All you need is love / All you need is love / All you need is love, love / Love is all you need.” Totally wiping me out, Will Thompson’s group played it and we sang it again last night in a packed gym at Mosley High School. Nine years ago it squared with how I saw Rachelle and Don looking at each other ~ and it tells everything I’ve known over the years about Ray and Diane Wishart and their girls.
Jesus said “God is love.” Ray Wishart, taking Jesus very seriously into his heart, as he did, Ray epitomized that divine essence — in his Christian ministry — in his generosity sharing his many talents — and all the forty years and generations of students in his classroom. ἀγάπη: love is kindness, generosity, thoughtfulness. A former student wrote this week, “He was not just a teacher, he was an inspiration. He was not just a teacher, he was a person who touched so many lives. He was not just a teacher, he was someone that stood out from the rest. He was not just a teacher, he was a role model. Loved by so many and always remembered — I don’t remember much from my past, but I always remembered you. I told my kids stories about your class. I told my kids how much you meant to me. You were one of my few stories that I had. You were my teacher and for that I’m thankful. I don’t think you realized how much of an impact you had on so many lives. I always looked forward to classes I never wanted to leave. He was not just a teacher, he was part of my life.”
All this week of such terrible anguish it has been impossible in hundreds upon hundreds of tributes to Ray, to separate intense personal grief from overwhelming love, because they are blended in our sense of loss of this gifted and loving man. Throughout the community, and from across the country people are remembering and telling Ray Wishart stories, because every one of us has a story of how he touched us, what he meant to us, what he did for us, how he helped us, what we learned from him, what we saw in him, including seeking Christ and seeing Ray. Stories from his classroom of his kindness, encouragement and inspiration. Of bus trips to New York: students being trusted, and so learning to be trustworthy and to love each other by looking out for each other. New York pizza. New York Sundays at St. Paul’s chapel near the twin towers of 9/11. I once asked, “Ray, why don't you take those kids by plane?” and he said “Because I personally know every single person on my bus. I know and trust my driver. I know every student on my bus. I know every adult on my bus. I know every student is safe with me on my bus. I could not say that about any airplane.”
Love is — you could trust your life and even your children with Ray Wishart.
Lord, which commandment is the greatest?
What does the law say?
You shall love God, and you shall love others.
Go and do likewise, do this and you will live.
As surely as anyone I’ve ever known, Ray Wishart lived into and up to Jesus’ love commandment. In his church as lay and ordained minister, and throughout his life as friend, lover, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, διάκονος: servant.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Seeking Christ, I saw Jesus in you, Ray Wishart. My heart is broken, but I have seen Christ in you.
Our service this morning is an Easter liturgy, filled with Hope for our resurrection as Jesus himself was raised. And so gently now, Hopefully in prayer, and especially for you, Diane; and you, Rachelle; and you, Rebekah, we pray: Jesus, our loving Savior: fill our lives with your Holy Spirit. Give courage and faith to all who are bereaved, that we may have strength to meet the days ahead, in the comfort of a reasonable and holy Hope, in the joyful expectation of eternal life with those we love.
Love is all you need, we have Jesus’ word on it. We commend Ray Wishart into the loving arms of our Lord Jesus,
whose love - is all you need.
Photo: Rachelle found this in the pictures, posted it the next morning, saying this is how she pictures Ray in heaven. Of all the pictures posted of Ray this week, this one touches me most deeply. Tom+