Posted by: Bay Presbyterian Church | April 5, 2016

Fair Winds and Following Seas Hank Morgan

 

A Memorial Service accomplishes three things.

First, a memorial service like this provides support and closure. Right after my mother’s funeral my exhausted father slumped down next to me and said “except for the occasion, this was a perfect day.” We are a disparate group here today. The commonality is Hank Morgan. It is hard to believe Hank is gone. He was a presence for each of us in different ways – friend, father, husband, tennis league czar, classmate, and commander. I think a common role that Hank had in each of our lives was as a teacher. He sure was with me. Leadership was a common theme with Hank—at least to me. I always had the sense that Hank was working on improving me –I was a work in progress

Now Hank is gone as evidenced by the fact that we are all here together today and the support begins. We are the support team—shaped by Hank for such a time as this.

A second thing a memorial service does is that it reminds us of a life well lived. I got to know Hank about 9 years ago on a visit to Booth Bay Harbor. I was a guest in their home. There was a lot of Hank in that place. We sat out on the spacious Morgan deck and talked well into the night about life, about the future, about the United States Naval Academy, service to the country, submarines, about faith and about God. Hank was a brilliant man and I suppose I just scratched the surface on most of those subjects. My early impressions of Hank can be at least in part—summed up by an excerpt from Reef Points which is a book committed to memory by Plebes. This particular quote comes from Teddy Roosevelt on the occasion of a speech he gave in France in 1910. It is called “The Man in the Arena.” It goes like this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

Who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

I think those of us who knew Hank will all agree that in each area of endeavor in which Hank engaged—he was the man in the arena –doing the right thing—spending himself in a worthy cause.

In his last days—his days in Hospice—he spelled out on his board (incidentally, thank you Paul for that board!) “I think I am fighting too much.” What I said was, “No one who knows Hank Morgan would expect any less from you…so you keep on being Hank Morgan.” But what I thought was the Dylan Thomas poem.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

 Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rage at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Though wise men at their end know dark is right

Because their words had forked no lightning they

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright

Their frail deeds might have danced in green bay

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight

And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,

Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.

Do no go gentle into that good night.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The third thing a memorial service does is remind us of our future hope and from whence it comes. The Bible says: “We sorrow, yet not as those without hope.” We should sorrow—we should weep and mourn deeply at the loss of a husband, a father, a brother, a friend. But we are not without hope and that should temper our sorrow.

One of the very few things on which I had an advantage the night we talked into the night on his deck, was the topic faith and God. Fortunately for me, that was the lions share of what we spoke of that evening. For those of you who knew Hank—I think you will agree that in the last decade of his life, there was a deeply spiritual Hank Morgan, transformed by his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—about whom he spoke often.

I believe God transformed his life from the days Sue first embraced Jesus Christ as her savior and I spoke a few words into his life. I want to share with you those words I spoke that brought about this change—it was the source of Hank’s hope in life and in death—and if there is chaos and a lack of peace in your life, it can be equally transformational in yours. These are not my words—these are God’s words—right from the Bible.

The bad news is left to ourselves; God would have a problem with all of us. The condition described by the Bible is sin. It is a moral problem and we are –everyone—all guilty of crimes against God. You may not think of yourself as a criminal—but that is how the Bible describes us. We may even do the best we can; yet God’s standard is perfection. Jesus Himself said “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Hank was a man if integrity—he was honest to a fault. He owned the fact of sin in his life. He knew he had a deficit relative to God. He just didn’t know what to do about it.

The bad news gets worse. The Bible describes a sin created chasm between God and us. Sometimes when the Bible uses the word death it is talking about physical death—but death is also used in the Bible to mean separation from God. The apostle Paul said, “The wages of sin is death.” Adam and Eve were told in the day you eat of the fruit they would surely die. That day they were evicted from the Garden of Eden—separated from God. Our sin separates us from God. The Bible says one day we will have to meet our Maker and give an account of our lives and the question will be—who will pay for our sin.

The worse news is—there is nothing we can do in and of ourselves to solve our sin deficit. Our default mechanism is to “try harder.” That is, to engage in—let’s call them good deeds. Community service, philanthropy, non-profits, maybe even a little religion—but at the end of the day—God doesn’t even work on that system. The Bible says,

“By good deeds shall no man be made right with God.”

The question comes—I thought God is a God of love; why does any one have to be separated from God?

You would be right in your thinking that God is love. That is abundantly clear in the Bible. But the Bible is equally clear that God is righteous and God is just. If God let unrighteousness stand, if God didn’t punish sin, He wouldn’t be righteous, He wouldn’t be just and He wouldn’t be God. How can God balance love, righteousness and justice?

This is the piece that Hank didn’t understand. This creates a dilemma. If I am a sinner, and if that separates me from God, and if there is nothing I can do about it, I have no hope!

But there is hope and it is good news! God did for us what we could not do for ourselves, and that is the really good news.

Before the dawn of creation God put a plan in place. At the right time, the Son of God—of the Holy Trinity—would become a human being—flesh and blood…a part of His own creation. He would live a perfectly righteous life—never once sinning—always pleasing the Father. Then, at a time and place of His choosing, Jesus surrendered to the hostile authorities. He was tried, convicted, condemned and ultimately crucified. It was at the cross of Jesus Christ that God’s love, righteousness and justice were balanced for us.

While on the cross, Jesus was standing in for us. While Jesus hung on that cross, the life blood dripping from His hands and feet, God the Father, (imputed is the correct theological term, but credited is close) credited our sin to Jesus and then poured His full wrath and fury on Jesus—justice was satisfied. Jesus took the rap for us. Jesus died—not just a physical death—though it was that—He died to God.

Jesus cried out from the cross:

“My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, you have turned your back in condemnation of me. Quite literally He went to hell and back paying for my sin…and yours. Justice was done.

At the same time, the Bible indicates God transferred (credited) Jesus’ righteousness to me. Righteousness was preserved…and it was the greatest act of love…ever. “The great exchange” theologians call it…my sin for Jesus’ righteousness.

Hank got it! The light bulb lit for Hank. It changed his life from a cold war warrior to a kind, humble, gentle and loving friend. Oh yeah—he had faults—but he also had a Savior.

God doesn’t forgive capriciously, only to those who respond in faith and repentance. Turning from our sin and self, turning to God to live with and for Him

  • Believing the bad new: that there are two problems I can’t deal with: sin and death
  • Believing the good news: that Jesus took the rap for me.

This was Hank’s hope—this according to the Bible—is anyone’s hope—anyone who hopes for eternal life and a life with God.

During his last days I will confess a wrestling match with God. I didn’t want Hank to die. Hank was a good friend and faithful follower of Jesus. It hurt me to think of him gone. But the other part of me said—Hank is now whole again—and he is in the presence of His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and he is running and talking again. That was Hank’s hope and aspiration and can be yours—you who surrender to Jesus Christ by faith.

That is our blessed hope—laid out for us in the Bible.

That was Hank’s hope and expectation

Do you know on what day Hank died? He died on Good Friday. I really think Hank negotiated that date. Here are some verses in the Bible that I thought about when I heard that Hank had passed that Good Friday.

Philippians 3: 7-11

“But whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [read good deeds] but that which comes through faith in Jesus Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection of the dead.”

Jesus suffered and died on Good Friday but rose from the dead on the third day.             Hank suffered and died on Good Friday and was alive again that day.

 

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