Saturday, April 6, 2013

James Hayashi funeral homily

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral for the funeral of James Hayashi on Saturday, April 6, 2013

Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the service.

"In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

James Hayashi was not always a Christian. He grew up as a Buddhist, and it was his love for Alice as much as anything that led him to embrace Christ. But embrace Christ he did … and like everything else he did, he didn’t do it halfway.

For the past 65 years, Jim has been a part of the life of Christ Church Cathedral. Think about that, 65 years. When Jim and Alice first walked into this space, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter were roaming the outfield for the Cardinals at Sportsmans Park.

For 65 years, as St. Louis has changed, as the world has changed, Jim Hayashi was a constant here at Christ Church Cathedral. Even in these later years when he couldn’t get here every Sunday, and finally when he couldn’t get here at all, his presence has never left this place … and truly it never will.

The faith that his love for Alice led him into was a perfect match for Jim. And I’m convinced it’s part of why this Cathedral meant so much to him. Because at its heart our Christian faith is about two things that Jim at his heart was about, too … incarnation and feasting.

When we talk about incarnation, about God becoming human in Jesus, what we’re talking about is a God who loves us so much that God just can’t bear to be separate from us. When we talk about incarnation, we’re talking about a God for whom relationship is everything. A God who isn’t content just to observe us from afar but needs to be right here with us, living with us, abiding with us, sharing with us.

That was Jim, too. What was important to Jim was relationships, and he structured his whole life around them. Jim was incarnational, and by that I mean he showed up again and again and again and again and again. He was a faithful, loving, living presence in the lives of his family and friends and community. Not just a voice on the phone or a card in the mail – though he was those things too – but more than that Jim was a constant physical presence because he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jim was not someone who ever said “I don’t have time for you.” Jim made time because he knew that time was relationship and relationship was what he loved.

John, you tell that great story of when you got your first place in the Bay Area that you dad came out and looked at it and said not “this place isn’t big enough for YOU” … but “this place isn’t big enough for US.” And then pushed you to find a place that was big enough for him to come and stay. Jim never thought in terms of me or you. Jim always thought in terms of us.

Jim was incarnational in the best sense of the word, in the most Christian sense of the word, because it was his greatest joy to give his life in love for those he loved. Alice, Bob, John and Joanie were the primary beneficiaries of that love, and his love for Joanie is absolute proof that even death cannot strain those bonds of love. But it wasn’t just family. Jim gave himself in relationship to this Cathedral community. To the Japanese American community in St. Louis during a time of great racism and persecution. And even to people he didn’t know. When a classmate of Bob’s was killed the same way Joan was, Jim went and spent the day with the family because he knew that pain and he knew that they should not be alone in that pain. That is the essence of Christ. That is incarnation.

But the essence of Christ is also celebration. The essence of Christ is also feasting. And if there was one other thing about Jim Hayashi it is that man knew how to eat. If you asked him how a trip he’d taken was, he’d recite the menu from the luncheon. In a new town for the first time, Jim’s radar could scope out a great restaurant every time.

Jim loved to feast. And feasting is what we do as Christians because we believe that God created us and gave us this life to celebrate. I have to believe that one of the things that continually drew Jim more deeply into the life of Christ is that our central act together is a meal. We come together to do the two things that Jim loved most – to be with one another and to eat.

And so it is fitting that as we celebrate Jim’s life today and commend him to God, that we do just that. We gather here as those whom Jim loves and those who love Jim. We gather to do what Jim always did with us … to be with each other, to share this time together, to not let one another be alone. And we also gather to do what Jim always did which is we gather to share a meal. We gather to feast at the table. As we remember and give thanks for and celebrate the life of James Hayashi, we remember that all life is to be celebrated and given thanks for. And that we honor Jim by going out and living his legacy of loving presence and feasting celebration in our own lives.

In the Gospel Alice picked for this day, Jesus talks about preparing a place. And there is a place prepared for Jim as there is for all of us. But it is not solitary confinement. Jesus talks about there being many dwelling places in his Father’s house but what is being prepared and where Jim is now is not his own room isolated and cut off from anyone else. That wouldn’t be heaven. Where Jim is now, even more fully in the presence of God is dwelling at a place at the table. A place at the heavenly banquet, where the food is sweet and the company is even sweeter. Where he is no longer separated from his beloved Joanie but in truth even though he is not here in flesh with us, he is not separated from us either. For such is the nature of a God who is about relationship and celebration. Such is the nature of a God who breaks down barriers for no other reason to be with us.

That was the life Jim lived on earth. That is the life Jim shares now in heaven. That is the life to which we are all invited and destined. Amen.

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