Harrowing Of Hell
March 16, 2013


Preacher: The Rev Doyt Conn

Matthew 25:34-40

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

I’d like to welcome everybody here today on behalf of Linda & Amy & Wylie. I consider it a great privilege to stand here and remember our friend Charley Bush on behalf of the community. It is a humbling challenge because I know for certain that if each one of us came forward today and spoke for an hour on the life of Charley Bush we still wouldn’t do justice to this most magnificent man.

He was a great friend to each one of us, and we all walked with Charley on this side of the great divide.

I was there with Linda and Amy and Wylie when he made the crossover.  It was a quick, graceful leap, as if the door to eternity opened just a crack and he went bounding through, like he knew exactly where he was going, as if he saw something familiar, as if he saw a friend walking by who he was eager to catch up with.

I can just hear Charley calling out, “Hey there, Jesus and the boys. I’ve been looking for you.” The “boys” were his reference to the disciples, and usually mentioned as a way of kicking off a theological discussion. Charley would say: “I wonder what Jesus and the boys would have thought of ….” and then some question.

And I would always answer in the same manner, and always being contrary to the point he was making by saying, “Actually Charley, Jesus and the boys preferred flat round tasteless wafers to real bread.” Or “Actually, Charley, Jesus and the boys really liked their long flowing robes, particularly in the hot desert summers.” Or “Actually Charley, Jesus and the boys wouldn’t have been interested in this war, or that election, or even the homeless.”

And Charley would laugh one of his great laughs, but never give up his line of reasoning which was usually spot on.

Charley was a straightforward guy.

He didn’t need or want any frou-frou in his religion, as Linda says. He had a few guiding principles: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your strength, and all your soul, and your neighbor as yourself.” It was pretty clear, that was all he needed, though he occasionally spiced it up with Matthew 25 which we heard read today!

Charley often referred to Jesus as that “liberal guy Jesus.”  They were friends, and because they were friends Charley was friends with everyone he met.

Take a look around… this place is filled with Charley’s friends.  Before Charley lost his leg, and even after he lost his leg, he would jog or walk through the neighborhood, and over time became friends with anyone whose path regularly overlapped with his. And then he’d invite them to church (like Faith). Charley never met a stranger, and he never met an outsider. In Charley’s world, as in Jesus’ world, everyone is an insider, and everyone belongs, and everyone is invited.

We all know Charley enjoyed a lively conversation.  Many of you know that better than I do, particularly those who practiced law with him.  I’m told he was a very effective lawyer, who had a rather independent style, and yet he didn’t let differences over the practice of law get in the way of his relationships. If fact, I never knew him to sacrifice a relationship over a theological or philosophical or political or religious or economic or even legal difference.

That just wasn’t Charley.   In his world, relationship was primary.  “It is all about making community,” he’d say and that is what he’d say when he’d invite people to Epiphany, “Come on, you’ll love the community.” And they loved it because he was here and he loved seeing us, and he always made us feel special; which, is yet another reason why we’ll all miss him so much.

Charley Bush was a great guy. He was also a disciplined man. He worked hard, he read scripture every day, and he exercised regularly… though I’m not so sure how interested Charley was in exercising, after all, Amy told me, she remembers her dad and Mike Evans returning from their jogs, only to sit on the porch, split a beer and smoke a cigarette.  Awhile ago!

But sports also built community and that was Charley’s thing, beginning with his #1 community, Linda.  I got an email from Charley years ago after I wrote an article on marriage.  He wrote, “Great theme and well-discussed.  It caused me to reflect upon my own marriage to Linda that began at Epiphany in August of 1968.”

“Why has it gone so smoothly?” he continues. “Well, in addition to what you wrote, we have participated in the same sports – squash, hiking, biking, running, and rowing; the latter two being at Linda’s instigation.  I believe, as with our spiritual lives, Linda has been the leader whom I have been perfectly willing to follow, not only for my benefit but for the benefit of our union.  One other thought,” Charley finished by saying, “our marriage has also benefitted by the community (that is church and neighborhood), in both subtle and overt ways.”

Charley loves you Linda, and he loves you Amy and Wylie, and Rob, and of course, his dear grandson Gus. He always spoke so warmly of you to me.  He was proud of you, Amy, as a great mom who is building community around your family, and Wylie for your hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. He used to say, “Joe Bar is really a great community.”

Charley loves his wife and his children and his grandson. He also loves the church and he loves Jesus, and from these things came great productivity on behalf of Epiphany.

There were the days of Family Camp at Camp Houston.  There were the Tuesday night prayer and praise meetings at the Bush house.  There were the vestry and the search committee, which brought me to Epiphany, and I will be eternally grateful to Charley for that. There was choir, which it turns out was the one activity in Charley’s life that made him a bit nervous, particularly if his bass buddy, Mike Evans, wasn’t there to sing with him.  But he stuck with it, because, of course, he couldn’t beat the community.

Then there were Cursillo and the Tuesday morning fellowship sessions which gave him the language to talk about his spiritual journey and his relationship with Jesus.

And there was the Minyan, (that is our theological study group) which met on Friday mornings.  That is the day of the week Psalm 51 is assigned in the Prayer Book, which was Charley’s least favorite Psalm. Every time we’d get to verse six, which read: “Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, a sinner from my mother’s womb,” Charley would grumble something to the effect of, “Oh, give me a break.”

Those of us in that seminar will never be able to hear Psalm 51 without hearing Charley’s voice.

Finally, there was his beloved Social Action Committee, crowned by his founding of the Operation Night Watch Friday night shelter here at the church. Charley loved Operation Night Watch and the work it did. It meant so much to him and he did what he could to help, including founding the “Have A Heart Dinner” here at the church, which raises money for Operation Night Watch and the other outreach programs he was constantly advocating for. We’ll miss Charley at these future parties.

After his diagnosis, Charley started having a few folks by his house at 4:30 pm for a glass of single malt Scotch.  Soon these informal gatherings developed a life of their own, and were called by some the “Bush Salon.”

I brought a friend to join me once, a priest from Southern California.  As we left, he said, “I’ve never seen anything like that.  The entire conversation swirled around what it is like to live in the kingdom of God, without any goofiness or churchy talk. It was awesome and authentic.”

Which sums up Charley Bush. Awesome, and authentic, and always seeking to live his life in the kingdom of God. Or as we say at Epiphany, Charley Bush lived his life as Jesus would if Jesus were Charley Bush.

It was a beautiful, purposeful life and it continues on as such in God’s divine economy. And I wonder, with a role model like Charley, “Why don’t the rest of us live that way?”  I guess one of his great legacies will come into being if this question becomes a question we ask more often: “Could I be more like Charley Bush?” And, I am sure when we ask this question, he’ll hear us, and laugh that great big Charley Bush laugh and say, “Oh, give me a break…You are terrific just the way you are!”

Charley, we miss you; and we love you; and we thank you for all of the love you unleashed in the world; and we will see you again.