Archives For Life

A Eulogy for Daddy Joe

January 28, 2015 — 3 Comments

JaneJoeFather Abraham had many sons
Had many sons had Father Abraham
I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord

Abraham, the father of three of the major streams of faith in the world, is known in scholarly circles as a patriarch. He was, as the dictionary defines that term, a man who was revered by those of his tribe who followed him. Patriarchs are the rulers of a family — sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad — but they are honored for their position in the family, and more often than not they are respected for their wisdom and their management of the household. Their legacy is seen in the many children they leave behind (…many sons) who identify themselves with the tribe of the patriarch.

Joe Sadler (Daddy Joe) was the patriarch in my family. He was not the oldest child, but he was the one that the rest of the family turned to again and again as difficulties arose. He was my mother’s older brother, and throughout my years he was the rock who kept our family sane and functioning in troubling times. When I was a stupid punk of a teenage kid, he bailed me out of the mistakes I made along the way, and I am sure that I would not be the person I am today without his influence in my life.

Last night, my Uncle Joe’s body finally gave out, and he passed from this world into the world to come. Joe had been a walking miracle, for he had survived lung cancer (with the removal of part of a lung), heart disease, and a variety of other ailments in the past many years. The ability to push through those challenges and continue on made him almost appear invincible — and it’s been a struggle over the past couple of years as it became more and more clear that his body was wearing out. It’s hard to know how to respond when a patriarch becomes human and frail, and our family will mourn this loss deeply.

In Genesis 25, the author of the book tells us about the death of Abraham:

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

Daddy Joe lived 81 years (his birthday was this past Saturday), and last night he breathed his last. He too was a good man and full of years. And now, we have confidence that he has been gathered to his people in a place with no more sickness, death, and sorrow. He has been reunited with his beloved Evelyn, his brothers Bill, Don, and Ray, and his sister (my mom) Jane.

His legacy will be lived out in those of us left behind. He taught us wisdom and compassion, pragmatism and faith, and the belief that family ties are not easily broken. More than anything, he taught us that we should never give up in the face of adversity. Joe survived and made the best of life . . . and he wanted his “many sons” to do the same.

Good bye Daddy Joe. You are fiercely loved, and will be profoundly missed.

Daddy Joe had many sons
Had many sons had Daddy Joe
I am one of them
And so are you
So let’s just praise the Lord

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463192683I think most of the world has seen my Facebook post from yesterday in which I announced that I am being appointed to serve as the Sr. Pastor of the City Road Chapel United Methodist Church in Madison, TN. In that statement, I acknowledged that I had thought at the beginning of the week that I was going to serve in another position at the conference office, but that the Holy Spirit had other plans in mind. It was a position in which many thought I would be effective (especially since I am currently serving as the interim) and so many have assumed that the appointment is somehow a step backwards from my personal desires and my career trajectory.

But here’s the deal. I am a United Methodist elder. Some 15 years ago I stood before a bishop and annual conference and vowed that I will go where I am sent. I decided at that time that my career future would be discerned by a group of people who were charged with matching my gifts with the needs of the annual conference. Yes, I have gifts which would have been helpful in the conference office setting, but as the cabinet met last week and worked and discerning God’s will for a congregation, my name appeared and after much prayer and deliberation they determined that they me needed more as a pastor than as a communicator . . . and I’m okay with that.

Someone suggested today that the appointment to another pastoral setting was not what I wanted, and several have expressed support thinking that I’m somehow disappointed in the decision. I understand why they feel that way, for the past year has been a tough one personally and professionally, and there was a part of me that was looking forward to the break from pastoral ministry.

But that’s not completely accurate, for while the appointment to City Road was not what I expected, I am excited that the Holy Spirit seems to have something else in mind for me. Serving in the conference office position would have been easy in many ways for I feel competent in the tasks of that job, but God rarely calls us to the easy road. Growth rarely comes through comfort, and my plan was they comfortable one. Was I surprised that God has something else in mind? For sure. But as I talked about a new possibility with our bishop and members of the cabinet I began to see that there indeed might be a purpose behind God’s plan, and that God usually has much more in store for me than I can imagine on my own.

You see, I believe in our system of discerning God’s will for leadership. I have seen again and again times when I wondered what the cabinet was thinking, only to find myself blown away by the grace of God in what I thought was going to be a difficult place. God works through the appointive system — sometimes in spite of us — and God invites us to see with new eyes great possibilities.

Yes, I had it all worked out in my mind . . . but God had other plans, and I’m pumped about moving to a new place, bringing my gifts to share, learning to work with a new staff and a bunch of laity who seem to have a heart for mission. Yes, there will be challenges. Yes, I don’t get to take break from preaching on Sundays. But I trust our bishop and cabinet, and believe that they were faithful in seeking after God’s desires; and I believe in the One who called me to this ministry thing in the first place, trusting that there are exciting times ahead.