Today, as we remember our brother, Bervin, here is the Eulogy I wrote for him. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” John 14:34-35
It’s difficult to place in words how hard it can be when you have to get up and move to a new place. For my family and I, the Lord’s calling has brought us to this point twice, which, both times, meant new schools, new friends, new towns, new routines. Both times, it was scary, and the Lord provided, both times, people in my life to guide me in and put me at ease. In Murfreesboro, the two men who greeted me first, and checked on me nearly every day as I made the transition were Ronnie McKinnon and Bervin Laurent.
I first met Bervin in March of 2019, when he was gathered together with the “Prime Timers”; my family and I were coming to see if Murfreesboro was where God was calling us, the Prime Timers were returning from lunch with Ronnie and Kathy McKinnon. I remember pulling in to what is now our home, and two vans full of experienced adults (I was told by them to say “experienced” because older is a term that just doesn’t seem to fit most of them), when the back door opened, a tall man reached out a large hand and firmly grasped mine. I didn’t know it yet, but this would define Bervin’s and my relationship over the last few years. That Sunday, as I was preparing to preach, Bervin was one of the first people to arrive at the church, a habit that was his norm as he was always looking to see if there was anything he could do before going to teach a lesson at the nursing home. As I said hello, he greeted me with what I would soon come to know was his usual greeting “well, I’m still here!” Bervin briefly told me about his time as an elder of the church, how it was a great church to belong to, and how he’d served at the church since the 1980’s. I can also safely say that this was the first and only brief story I really ever heard Bervin tell: for the rest of our relationship, he would often sit in my office, at a restaurant, or in the church and tell me of his wife, Sylvia (who said she was as near perfect as a woman could get), service to the church, driving a Mule team to Nashville from Nathan, going to school at 16 and how he handled those who threw rocks at he and his brother, his service in the Air Force during Korea, his time at roller derby as he worked for Lockheed in California, about cooking for the shut-ins (His famous coconut cake was always referenced when fellow prime timers were near), and life in general. I may not have got the full scope of the man, but I can say that I am grateful he shared his full life with me and my family.
What I noticed about Bervin, however, and this has been affirmed by my conversations with his late brother Harold, as well as with conversations with Herman and many others, was more striking than any experience that Bervin ever lived: he was a man who lived by the great commandment: he loved God with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loved his neighbor as himself.
My first year at the church, my wife and I began to drive the Prime timers and eat lunch with them. Sometimes, lunches would have to be canceled, but Bervin, who had planned on being there, would come to the office for a visit anyway; I see, now, how much those times and his routine meant to him. On one of those cancellation dates, a young preaching student, who had to come live with us for a time and was interning at the church, was with me in the office. Both of us knew Bervin needed the fellowship, so we offered to take him to lunch. The only time I ever heard Bervin raise his voice to me was to say “Preacher, you better put that wallet back” as I fished in my pocket. There was an authority in his voice that I dared not question, and, in talking with the family over the last few years, and especially the last few days, this was Bervin’s way: if you ate with him, even if you invited him, he wanted to bless you. I soon came to figure out that eating a meal with others was what kept him going: this was his routine, for the most part since Sylvia died: he had a routine of where to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, and all of the local wait and kitchen staff at the local restaurants affectionately called him “Pops.” He thrived off of the “one another” aspect of serving the Lord. Many have shared stories with me over the last week about their experience with Bervin: Alan McRae and Randy Posey, who grew up under and served along side Bervin in eldership, could only recall him getting angry once, and that was at a board meeting; I’ve been in plenty of board meetings that weren’t going well, so I couldn’t blame him for anger! Yet, Randy added, after his anger subsided, he just laughed, and left it alone. He was a peace maker, willing to do for others, a foot washer, willing to serve.
I say was, because his earthly tent is now expired; yet I know, because of Bervin’s hope in Jesus Christ, that Bervin is now in a place more real than the world he left us behind in. It was this hope that led Bervin to love his wife, Sylvia as he did, it was Bervin’s hope that led him to all the one anothers in his daily routine. If I could sum up this great love Bervin had in one personal experience, it was the day that Bervin invited my family and I to dine with him, his sister-in-law Marian, and his niece Teresa, her daughter Connie, and Connie’s kids. Bervin sat at the table in Miner’s Diner and the contentment on his face stated that, in these moments, surrounded by friends and family, loving one another and getting along, that he felt full to the brim.
Bervin’s hope, is, as I said before, in Jesus Christ. This supernatural love is found in Christ alone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is this: All of us are in rebellion against our maker, this is what we call sin. Not a single one of us can atone for anything we’ve done; according to God’s law, we’re all guilty. This guilt from our rebellion leads us to die, both physically, and in the time to come. Yet Jesus Christ came, God’s Son, masking His divinity, living as one of us, and lived perfectly according to that design. He fed the hungry, visited the sick, cared for the widow and orphan, welcomed the outcast, and preached the good news of freedom to the prisoners. And, according to the Scriptures, He died at the hands of lawless men, numbered among criminals, and yet He Himself was committed no crime. When He was nailed to that cross, they nailed our sin to the cross with Him, because He said
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”” John 10:14-18
And, according to the scriptures, Jesus was buried and rose again on the third day, removing the penalty of sin which is death. He rose, alive, so that we too may walk in the resurrection life now, and, when the earth is renewed, we shall also be renewed, resurrected, perfected, and live forever more in the presence of Christ. Jesus knew Bervin’s name. He spoke it to the Father while Bervin walked this life, because Bervin surrendered His life to Jesus. Bervin lived His life in that love, and lived according to that love. As Jesus loves, so too does Bervin, and Bervin continues in that love, even as we speak.
This morning, as we prepare to say good bye for a period of time to Bervin, as, for the believer death is a temporary parting, I would like to invite you to live as He did: live for Jesus Christ. If we repent of our sin, no matter how bad we think we are, or what we have done, turn to and are born again in Him, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive. If we have already given our lives to Jesus, let us live, as Bervin did for the one anothers. Jesus commanded, as did the Apostles, some 92 times in the New Testament that we love, look after, and care for one another. You can live in this hope, this command, but, like Bervin did, we must do so in Surrender to the will of Jesus Christ.
Finally, as we get ready to say goodbye, some of us to part now, others to part after we say good bye to another beloved family member, let us live our lives in honor of Bervin, going out of our way for the one anothers, seeking togetherness and unity, always seeking to bless, and loving one another. I want to leave you with a Passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,d that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words. (4:13-18)