Some of you knew John Kok. He’s been part of the Granite Springs community for about 6 years. I had the honor of conducting his funeral this past Tuesday. John was a kick of a guy to know and he will be sorely missed by family and friends alike (and he had many). Some called John a rascal. He was quite mischievous. He tended to poke me in the ribs on his way out of church—usually while I was in the middle of a conversation with someone else. And then he’d move on. Sometimes adding a quip or two along the way. While some might have considered it an interruption with John it was always a joy.
As John’s health declined, I saw less and less of he and Elsie at church. I would visit occasionally and would call from time to time. Just to check in. I think it was usually Elsie who picked up the phone. And so I assumed I would be talking to her. “I haven’t seen you guys in a while, How’s everybody doing? How’s John doing today?” I might have asked Elsie. “I’m doing great! Couldn’t be better!” I could hear hollered from the background–along with a smart, silly or fresh comment. Either I was on speaker phone or the phone volume was always turned up real loud. I came to realize soon that I should assume I was always being broadcast throughout the house. I thought I was only speaking to Elsie, but I was always speaking with John too!
At one point, as I sat with some of the family preparing for John’s funeral, Elsie looked at me and said with all sincerity, “He loved you, you know.” As the words entered my head, I was both honored and I understood. What I nice thing to say, I thought. But you know, it was true. John did love me. I knew that. John loved so many people. He loved us all honestly, authentically and deeply. He loved Elsie for 61 years. He loved his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, sons and daughters-in-law, nieces and nephews, friends and neighbors. And it was his granddaughter who finally said at our meeting. John loved God and John loved others. Which reminded me of the text I shared with the family on Tuesday. It comes from the gospel of Matthew chapter 22.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law,† tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 ‡ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
As I reflect on John’s life, I give thanks to God for a life that so loved God and that loved others as himself. As I savor this memory of John, however, as one who loved God and loved others, we can all be reminded and actually affirmed by the source of that love. That John’s love for God and John’s love for us came from the truth of the gospel that God loved John even more. That it was God who sought John out since he was a young boy. That it was God who met John through God-fearing parents, through life on a farm in Washington, through a journey to Canada to find the treasure of a wife in Elsie. That it was God who sustained John through life as a businessman and celebrated with him through 61 years of marriage. That it was God who loved John through the raising of his children, and then his grandchildren, and even participating in the raising of his great grand children. In all of this, it was God’s love for John that made him who he was. And it is God’s great love for John and for each of us that we celebrate in his life. We believe it is God’s great love that changes every heart. This is the gospel. This is good news! This is the announcement of the kingdom to which we are all called. To which we see in part. But to which now John sees completely.