(Continued from yesterday.)
There was a commotion from the back of the room. A cool breeze rushed in. Dad looked up. Mrs. Bowden, Mom, and I turned around. People were streaming in and the room eventually became cramped.
“Mr. Tennyson,” the funeral director said. “May I have a moment with you.”
A half hour later Bowden’s coffin was moved to the largest room. The funeral home was packed. People were standing in the lobby and in the parking lot.
I was nervous for Dad, but there was this calm over him that came only after a hard rain when the crops were in.
“Mrs. Bowden wishes to thank all of you for coming today,” Dad said. He smiled once again at Mrs. Bowden.
“My name is Martin Tennyson. Some of you know me, some of you don’t. Not until this day did I know Ellsworth Bowden.”
“There were two sides to Ellsworth. Two men struggling inside his conscience. One man was humble, kind, compassionate, and true. The other man doubted.”
Dad pulled an envelope from his suit’s inside lapel pocket. “Bowden gave me this a month ago and told me to read it at his funeral.”
Dad tore open the envelope. He opened the letter. “It is not often, if ever, a man has the opportunity to preach at his own funeral.”
“I met Tennyson many years ago. He may not know it now nor knew it then, but I liked him.”
“In the past three years we have had many informal discussions about, life, death, the Bible, theology, farming, and what ever the wind blew our way, but it focused mainly on the Bible, theology, and the church.”
“Many years ago I made a decision to serve the needs of the people in the church although my reason and logic dictated, in strong terms, the church as an organization was built for the sole purpose of providing a comfortable living for itself only.”
“Doctrines, teaching, and liturgy was out of touch with the Bible’s clear and simple truths. The church had created a labyrinth of policies, edicts, and epistles that confused and confounded even the best of minds. For many here today this will make little difference in how you view the church or your lives.”
“Over the past three years Tennyson and I argued strenuously about church doctrine. At first it angered me. He was a farmer and had managed to pull himself from the quicksand of teachings that in themselves made sense to only the ill-informed.”
“At this point, Tennyson, tell everybody not according to church doctrine, but according to the Bible where I am.”
Dad looked up from the letter. “In the book of Ecclesiastes it states the dead are not anywhere. They are not conscience. Jesus likened death to sleep. This thinking and this thinking only makes the resurrection logical. If one goes to heaven immediately why does the Bible speak of the resurrection in the last day?”
Dad looked down at the letter, smiled, and read. “It says, ‘Thank you, Tennyson.’” Dad continued. “Next, Tennyson, tell them about the trinity.”
“Bowden argued for the trinity and I argued against it,” Dad spoke. “The scriptures plainly and simply point out and illustrate the relationship between the father and the son is like a father and a son. The father is the progenitor of a son; one is creator the other is created. Jesus never claimed to be equal or the same. In fact, he said there were things the father knew that he did not.”
Dad looked back at the letter. “It reads, ‘Thank you, Tennyson, now tell them about hell.’” Dad looked up at the attendees. “Hell is not a place or concept found in the Bible. Jesus at times referred to a garbage dump outside the city of Jerusalem to illustrate complete destruction. How can one possibly fathom a loving God torturing people forever and ever? In many cases in the Bible the word hell is better translated grave or pit.”
Dad looked down at the letter again and read, “Thanks you, Tennyson, now tell them about the soul.”
“The soul in most instances in the Bible is a breather,” Dad said. “Once it stops breathing it is no longer exists. The Bible does not indicate that something survives death, yet it assures us of life again. How this is done is likely just as miraculous as the creation of life itself. If we believe God can create man from the dust of the ground, what little effort is needed to recreate a life that had lived and died from the same dust?”
Dad looked down at the letter again and read, “Thank you, Tennyson, you are nearly done; now you may say some words about me and don’t preach me into heaven!”
Dad smiled. “Well you heard what the man said.” Dad breathed deep. He closed his eyes for a moment. I knew he was saying a quick prayer. He smiled and began to speak.