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To listen to earlier homilies click here.
Audio and text versions of the Evensong homily are found here.
Draft text of the homily—please do not cite without permission
It seems impossible that we’re all here tonight.
Not that long ago we had a glorious evensong in celebration of Don Teeters’ life and ministry here at All Saints.
I know many of you were here.
I preached the homily, and afterwards at the incredible high tea in the Guild Room Don joked that he wanted me to preach the same homily at his funeral.
I replied that I would, “If I was still around.”
I said that because that day I really believed that Don might well out-live us all.
He was so vibrant and full of energy.
Well, forgive me, Don, but I’m not going to preach the exact same homily.
Similar, but not the same.
If it were 10 years from now, and those glorious celebrations of this past spring had faded from our memories, I might.
But it’s only one short summer later.
We haven’t had time to get our heads around Don’s retirement let alone his death.
And if we haven’t gotten our heads around it. What about our hearts…
How will we ever get our hearts around his this?
Our hearts which have been broken—shattered—by the very sudden death of this person who was so very much a part of our lives.
Don connected people.
He’s the reason several couples here are married.
He’s the reason many of you are in Cecilia, or here at All Saints, or now pursuing the vocations you are.
He’s the connection that brings all of us here…from all across the country.
In the past few weeks I’ve heard from Don’s high school friends…from musicians in France…friends in the Czech Republic…and from all around New England.
Don connected people…He created community.
For 47 years here, and for 44 years with Cecilia, at the New England Conservatory, and numerous other venues Donald wove communities together through music.
He connected us to one another.
Connected us to the grandeur of our past—to Bach and Brahms, to Britten and Handel.
And because of the depths he was able to plumb through music and singing he connected us to God.
Because everything begins with breath. In the beginning God’s breath—ruach—spirit moved over the face of the deep. God breathes into earth and forms earth creatures. Jesus breathes onto the disciples the same ruach, pneuma, spiritus—the Holy Breath, the Holy Spirit—and forms them into the church. It is the same Holy breath that anoints him and enables him to proclaim good news to the poor, release to the captives. It is this same Spirit that is available to us with every breath.
There are Rabbis who teach that the divine name of God is really the sound of breathing.
The name of God is the breath of life.
The liturgy itself is like breath. The liturgy draws in all the dispersed people of God, draws them in for refreshment, renewal, draws them in to re-inspire them as the Body of Christ.
Tonight we are breathed in with the sharp intake of shock and grief. Throughout the service the Spirit might help us sob or weep or intercede for us with groanings too deep for words.
But this particular liturgy—as Don well knew—our funeral liturgy is an Easter liturgy. And so God’s breath moving through us will also remind us, and help us to declare that “death has been swallowed up in victory.” That if we have life we are alive in the Lord, so whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. That because of Christ’s victory over death even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.
Throughout all of life, it is breath which sustains us. It is our breath which connects us.
And singing is, as the scholars say is, “A paradigm of union with [our] creator.”
So every time we breathe in and lift our voices in song we are connected: to God, to one another, to the celestial chorus of all the greats (and not so greats) who have gone before us, …to Donald.
We are all incredibly blessed to have had Donald Teeters in our lives. We will certainly miss him. We’ll miss his wit, his energy. His strong opinions. His conviction that “nothing could possibly go wrong.”
But Don has given us a tremendous gift that we will continue to enjoy: the gift of being formed as a community that is truly ministerial in the deepest sense of that word.
Don, through his gifts and his skills wove together not just remarkable choirs, but communities…communities that serve.
That serve the music by striving for “beauty of the utmost depth” in each piece.
That serve the liturgy by gathering us all in song, and guiding our theological growth through well-chosen hymns.
That serves the broader community by reintroducing us to the pure beauty of music that had become encrusted with accretions of later eras.
It’s quite a wonderful gift to be entrusted with, and to steward, and give away.
And we will honor Don’s many gifts to us by continuing to strive for the beauty and depth that he introduced us to and helped us to touch.
By bringing our disparate voices together and uniting them in song…
And by doing that, by remaining connected to God, to beauty, to music, to one another, our hearts will continue to expand to encompass more and more
to serve more and more
to touch even greater depths of purpose and meaning…
Until we are all finally, fully united in the heart of the One who sings in the depths of all our souls, who speaks the universe being, and who is as present and vital to us as our next breath.