We gather this morning to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of George L. Campbell. We also gather to encourage each other and to look for hope in the midst of sadness. The best place to start is with the Word of God.
We turn today to the Scriptures for our comfort. In the Psalms we read,
God is our refuge and our strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
The Apostle Paul wrote about what happens when we die in 2 Corinthians 5. Let me read this passage from the contemporary paraphrase “The Message”,
We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven God-made, not hand made and we’ll never have to relocate our tents again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead, He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.
Please pray with me:
Our Father, we bow before you this day and acknowledge you as the one who gives us life and the one who determines the time of our death. We also turn to you as the One who comforts us with a comfort that transcends that of the world. Today we mourn and we need Your strength and the renewed assurance of your promises.
O Lord, please assist us today. Help us to remember and give thanks for the life of George Campbell. Grant also that we might lay hold of your promises with such confidence that we might be known as those who grieve but not without hope. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
George L. Campbell, was born May 21, 1927 in Brooklyn, IL. to Luther and Hattie Gossage Campbell. He graduated early from Western High School in Macomb so he could serve in the Navy at the end of World War II. He served in China. He later attended diesel mechanic school in St. Louis,Mo. He married the love of his life, Maxine F. Pollock on January 10, 1950 in Colchester, IL. She preceded him in death on May 26, 2008.
George served as a rural mail carrier and retired after 42 years and 11 months service in the Plymouth area. He was a member of the former Plymouth United Methodist Church and served on the church board. He was a former member of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Rural Mail Carriers Association and had served on the Plymouth Fire Department.
George died at his home, surrounded by family last Thursday, March 26th exactly 10 months to the day after Maxine. He was 81 years old.
He is survived by two sons, Stan (Cathy) Campbell of Loraine IL and Jeff (Karla) Campbell of Colchester; a daughter, Aletha (Mark) Ebert of Blandinsville; five grandchildren; Adam Campbell of Atlanta, Ga., Misty Nelson of Chicago, Jason Campbell of Quincy, Jeremy Campbell of Colchester and Brandi Campbell of Colchester, one great-granddaughter, Madelyn Grace Cooper and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins.
George Campbell was a good and decent man.
George and his friend met the Pollock twins one night. They each picked a girl and took one home. George said that was the night that began a lifetime relationship of love with Maxine. When asked why he was drawn to Maxine rather than Eileen (since they were identical twins) George said simply, “It just happened that way.” In other words, it was the “luck of the draw”.
George was a mail carrier for about 43 years. He took his job seriously. The saying often associated with the postal service, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” was something that George took to heart. He always delivered the mail and never missed a day (apart from his vacations). People said George was so regular with his deliveries that you could set your clocks by him.
But George was more than a mail carrier. He was a friend to the people on his route. It was not uncommon for George to be asked to tow a vehicle with his jeep or to rescue people from the snow. One time George knew that a family had not heard from their son who was in the military and were quite concerned. George noticed a letter from their son on a day they were all out in the field. So, George walked out and across the field to deliver the letter to them! George was never the guy asking for help . . .he was the one giving it.
George worked six days a week but the benefit of his job was that he was home early every day. Consequently he was able to spend more time with his children than most dads. He loved his kids, He also loved to tinker.
George was mechanically inclined. He could repair or rebuild any kind of engine. George liked working with Jeff on the race cars, he could fix a combine, he was constantly under the hood of one of the kids or grandkids cars. He understood engines. In 1967 he bought a used riding lawnmower for $175.00 (and he complained about the price). 42 years later the lawnmower still works!
George also worked with wood and did repairs around the house. George was the kind of guy who, if he didn’t know how to do something, would read up on it and figure it out. He was always making something.
George believed in the importance of integrity. He kept his word and was very concerned (even when he was sick) to make sure that his bills were all paid. He was a man who never bragged about what he had or envied what others had. He was a man who was content. The only time he would get mad is if you questioned his character.
George also liked to hunt. He enjoyed hunting for mushrooms, Quail, Turkeys, Pheasant and more. He enjoyed taking the dogs out.
George had a great sense of humor. He was prone to tease people constantly. He wasn’t above asking the kids to “pull his finger” or give them a hard time. He was also willing to be teased. Stan remembers the time Maxine wanted a family picture and no one would smile . . . so Stan licked a finger and stuck it in George’s ear. Dad didn’t particularly like the “wet willie”.
Jeff remembers the day he had a Tupperware juice shaker and made a milk shake in it. He ran through the house shaking the shaker and saying, “Shake, Shake, Shake”. What he didn’t know was that the top of the shaker wasn’t on completely. When he came past George to shake, George ended up covered with a mike shake. Jeff can’t tell you how George reacted because he didn’t stay around to find out!
Jeff also remembers the time he lifted George up in the front-loader so he could clean out his gutters. He also remembers the time they were moving mattresses and he made a mattress sandwich with George in between!
One time when Stanley was gone, Adam decided to take a ride in Stan’s blue truck. George went down to check on how things were going with parents gone. First thing George commented on the fact that Adam must have been out driving dad’s truck. I’m sure Adam thought Grandpa had super powers. In truth, Stanly ALWAYS backed the truck into the garage. Adam didn’t know this and had pulled it in. George told Adam that if he wanted to have any chance his dad wouldn’t know he had driven his truck, he had better turn it around.
George was a loving husband. He enjoyed doing things with his wife. When she became sick, he was determined that she would not go into a Nursing Home. He took care of all her needs. When she was in the hospital he spent 18 straight nights at the hospital. He was a patient and giving care-giver.
George and Maxine had a tender and special relationship. They enjoyed getting in the car and night and taking a ride in the country. When they would see deer they would just stop the car and watch them for awhile. When they were in bed they used to pray together before going to sleep. I sense that they were each other’s best friends. I’m sure Maxine’s death left George more lonely than we could ever know.
“Pamp” loved his kids and adored his grandchildren. He was the one Aletha turned to when an animal was sick. George was the one Jeff called when he ran into a problem. If the kids ever had a need, George would drop everything to help. Pamp was the one with whom Misty always wanted to watch the Wizard of Oz (because he would hold her tight when the wicked witch was on the screen). Pamp taught the Granddaughters to drive because he was so calm. Pamp was the one everyone called if they had a car problem.
Pamp and Mimi enjoyed taking care of the kids. Although there was that one time after Pamp and Mimi had given Brandi a bath. When they looked away she escaped out the front door and Pamp and Mimi were seen scampering down the street trying to catch their newly washed and runaway Grand-daughter!
George loved the family gatherings. I sense that he was never happier than when the family was holding hands around the dinner table. George Campbell wanted to be a good husband, father, Grand-father and provider. He wanted to make sure his family was taken care of. He was all of those things. His kids say, “We have no bad memories.”
Pamp was an example in the way he lived his life and in the way he died. When the Doctor told George he had cancer, he accepted the news without emotion. He told the Doctor he was willing to fight. However, when it seemed that the battle was lost, he didn’t complain, he only sought to express his love to those he cherished. He didn’t grumble about the pain he endured. George was confident of his eternal destiny. He didn’t want to die but did look forward to seeing Jesus and to being with Maxine again. Even in his death he giving his family an example of what it means to live and die with character.
Let me share this poem from an unknown author that has meaning to George’s family.
If tomorrow starts without me, And I’m not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry the way you did today,
While thinking of the many things, we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me, As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too;
But when tomorrow starts without me, Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name, And took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready, In heaven far above,
And that I’d have to leave behind; All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away, A tear fell from my eye
For all my life, I’d always thought, I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for, So much left yet to do,
It seemed almost impossible, That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays, The good ones and the bad,
I thought of all the love we shared, And all the fun we had.
And when I thought of worldly things, I might miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did, My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven’s gates, I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me, From His great golden throne,
He said, “This is eternity, And all I’ve promised you.”
Today your life on earth is past, But here life starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow, But today will always last,
And since each day’s the same way, There’s no longing for the past.
You have been so faithful, So trusting and so true.
Though there were times you did some things, You knew you shouldn’t do.
But you have been forgiven, and now at last you’re free.
So won’t you come and take my hand, and share my life with me?
So when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me, I’m right here, in your heart.
This song captures the heart of the family.
[Song: Daddy’s Hands]
In John chapter 11 of the Bible we are told the wonderful account of Jesus raising his friend, Lazarus, from the dead.
When Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Mary and her sister were, quite frankly, a little put out with Jesus for not arriving sooner. As Jesus arrived, Martha went out to meet him,
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
At this time of devastating loss, Jesus shared with Martha a statement that is vital for us to hear today. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Whenever someone we love dies, there is an emptiness in us that results from an honest, but often unspoken question, “Is there really anything beyond the grave?” People have many different ideas about death. Some believe death is simply the end. When you die, that’s the end of the story. Life to these people is basically a sprint to nothingness. Life is ultimately meaningless.
Others believe that there is some sort of re-cycling that takes place after death. If you live a good life you come back to a better life. If you live a poor life you must pay for it in the next. There is no evidence that any of this is true, but there is at least some purpose to our living.
Jesus taught that there is life beyond the grave. He taught that there is not only some life, but eternal life. The life the Bible describes is one where pain is gone, tears of sadness are banished, and heartache is swallowed up by victory. Death, according to the Bible is not the end . . .it is just the end of the beginning.
Let’s be clear. Not everyone goes to Heaven. In fact, it may be safe to say that the majority of people do NOT go to Heaven. There are always those who say, “I want to go the Hell because that’s where all my friends are.” They miss the point. When God’s love is replaced by God’s wrath there will be nothing good about Hell. The bond of friendship which we cherish comes from God . . . it will be gone. The delight we feel at the pleasures of the world comes from God . . . it will be gone. Joyous laughter . . .gone. Taste buds….gone. Amusements . . . gone. There is NOTHING heavenly about hell.
The Bible tells us no one deserves heaven. Imagine registering for a class where getting a score of 100% is required to pass. It wouldn’t matter if your scores were in the 20’s or 90’s both would fail. The first point you lost would guarantee your failure in the class. The Bible tells us God is holy and only those who follow Him perfectly will gain Heaven by their merit. Some people live better lives than others . . . .but no one lives a good enough life. I believe George Campbell is in Heaven . . .but not because he was good enough to earn it.
The Bible tells us that Jesus came into the world to pay for the price of our sin failure. He came to be our substitute. He took the failing grade and penalty that we deserved.
How is this possible? If you were holding a bunch of hostages would you trade all those hostages for the President of the United States? I would think you do so without much thought. Someone might say, isn’t it better to have a bunch of hostages rather than just one? Not if that one is the President. His value is in the office that he holds.
On the cross, Jesus as Son of God traded His life for all those held hostage by sin. Because of the value of His position as Son of God He can trade His life for ours. Why would He do it? It’s because He loves us more than we realize.
Jesus is the only way to Heaven because He is the only one who can pay the price of our sinful failures. All the other religions in the world may be well meaning but they are designed to help us score a little higher in our “test scores.” However, when passing is 100% doing a little better doesn’t make any ultimate difference. You still fail.
When Jesus spoke to Martha and Mary there was a condition to His promise. He didn’t say that everyone would go to Heaven. He didn’t say that every one who was esteemed would go to Heaven. He didn’t even say that everyone who went to church would go to Heaven. He said the only people who would “live even though they die” would be those who believed in Him.
There are three levels of belief in Jesus. First, there are those who believe that Jesus lived, died and maybe even believe that he rose from the grave. They believe that the facts about Jesus are true. They believe in Jesus historically. This kind of belief will not get you into Heaven.
The second kind of belief are those who believe that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus are able to pay for sin and transform of life. They believe Jesus is able to save. They may call Jesus “Savior” and sing songs to Him. They hold him in high regard. But even this kind of belief cannot get you into Heaven.
There is a third kind of “belief”. These are the people who not only believe the facts about Jesus and believe in the ability of Jesus. These are the people who actually entrust themselves to Him. They “bet their lives” on Jesus and build their lives on these truths. These are the people who have the faith that Jesus requires.
My favorite illustration of this reality is a riddle. If three frogs are on a log and two decide to jump in, how many frogs are left on the log? The answer is three. Three frogs are still on the log because deciding to jump and actually jumping are two different things. Likewise, believing in Jesus and actually trusting Him are two different things.
Jesus said, “He who believes in me (in the third sense) will live even though he dies.” Then Jesus asked the sisters a very important question: Do you believe this?
I didn’t know George Campbell well but I believe George did trust Jesus with His life. I believe George in with Jesus not because he was a kind and decent man (which he was) but because He trusted a Great Savior. In the same way, if you will trust Christ, if you will actually “jump”, you will live beyond the grave as well.
Some say, “How can we know that the promise of Jesus is true?” The answer is pretty simple: Jesus brought Lazarus back after he was buried for four days! And when Jesus himself died, He came back to life after three days also. I guess, the question is: “Who are you going to believe, the philosophers of the day, or the man who raised others from the dead and also raised Himself?
Today as we mourn and confront the ultimate issues of life I challenge you to examine your own heart. Where do you stand with Jesus? Are you a fan, or a follower? The answer to the question is important because it will determine where you will spend eternity.
I hope you will do something else today. I hope you will remember George Campbell. I hope you will tell your stories and reflect on his life. Learn from his life. George taught us many things,
- He taught us that what matters in life is not what you have, but who you are.
- He taught us that Animals are some of the best things God ever created . . . unless they are a cat!
- He taught us that consistency in the way you do your job yields respect from the people who know they can depend on you.
- He taught us that the joys of marriage do not come without sacrifice and that sacrifice seems as nothing when you love
- He taught us that since life is short, you might as well enjoy the journey
- He taught us that the real blessing in life is not found in what you possess but in the people you cherish.
- He taught us that true faith is revealed not only in the way we live but also in the way we die.
George Campbell touched many lives and all of us will miss him.
Father, we bow before you. We thank you for blessing our lives with George Campbell. We ask that you would instill some of that character and integrity into our lives.
Father, I pray that you help this family. Help them to cope with two major losses within a year. Help them to draw close – not just now, but also in the future. Grant that their memories might be rich and undiminished through the years.
I pray also that you help us to believe in you. Help us to get beyond mere religious observances and truly “jump” into a full and eternal relationship with you. Help us to find the life that you have now given to George. Help us to know You more fully and to love you more completely. We ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.