By Jeff Greunke
My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand.
It seems to me that I have been unusually silent since Byron’s passing. Honestly, it is quite surreal; unnerving; deflating. I still can’t quite comprehend that he is gone. I’m really going to miss him.
You see, I was actually already working for St. Luke when we Called him and I remember the whole process. I remember Byron sharing that, even though he was quite comfortable being where is was, he just knew that he was to take the Call to serve at St. Luke. Little did he know what a roller coaster ride it was going to be. And neither did we…
Through the years, it was a joy for him and for me to work together brainstorming through weekends and sermon ideas and wrestling through things that didn’t always seem like it was going to work. But I tell ya, once we made our way through Sunday morning and things went well, we knew that the Holy Spirit had been majorly at work! He would come to my office on Monday and we would just be amazed how things sometimes clicked. You know, those times that you are just winging it and making adjustments because of the Spirit’s promptings and things happened that there was no other way to explain it but for the Holy Spirit leading us in worship. Wow! There was nothing like it. And he would always tell me how great it was to “dance” with me. It was sort of an innate sense that we had to play off each other. And it was all God. And we knew it. I’m really going to miss that.
This past April, when we were putting together the celebration for Byron, I got to plow through I don’t know how many sermons of his, looking for those awesomely funny farm stories. That was very fun and cool. But in doing so, I got to hear many other poignant stories; stories that, at the time, weren’t obvious in their foreshadowing. There are stories of his home church, of his dad’s passing, of moments with his mom. But the one thing that sent chills through me is the recording of Byron’s last sermon. When I heard it, I just knew and had this sense that even then the Holy Spirit was using him again (still?), even almost knowing that it would be his last spoken sermon.
I say “spoken” for a reason. Much has been said about how LOUD Byron could tend to be. And as we know as the illness progressed, Byron lost his ability more and more to communicate with his voice. It became more and more rare to hear his voice in complete sentences. I had heard told of him early on being very adamant that the Lord wasn’t done with him yet. Boy oh boy, was that ever true. Byron was a walking, talking sermon, even till the day he died. Through the commitment of being in church just about every single Sunday arriving in his wheelchair, receiving all those hugs from everybody that saw him, he showed us how to be steadfast in gathering together in worship. We saw that in the video that his daughter produced honoring the man and the joy he got from being amongst his family. Even in his silence Byron was “speaking” loudly to us.
Many are amazed at the impeccable timing of God. How Pastor Rossow arrived at just the right moment; how Byron handed off the care and shepherding of the St. Luke-Ann Arbor site to Justin; how soon Pastor Justin would have to take the enormously weighty task of caring for Byron, his family, and his church family through this time of trial. But to God (as usual), it was perfect timing.
We all will have this inevitable moment when we will be called before our God and King. Byron knew that it might be coming sooner than later. Not all may have that grace, if you will. That is what Byron knew and believed and he was never one to shy away from the Gospel. That is the continuing “sermon” that we can hear from Byron everyday. Oh I’m sure that Byron preached many other very powerful, stirring messages and that the Spirit used many of them to touch many people’s hearts in just the right way, at just the right time. But I believe this has to be one of his finest messages, full of Good News that can be used for years to come. Share it with your friends who are struggling with being far from God. Share it with those who just need a word of encouragement in a time of doubting. Listen to it for yourself to reaffirm what it is that has been planted in you, even from before you were formed.
By: It was awesome working alongside of you and I’m going to miss you…a lot.
☩ Soli Deo Gloria. Amen. ☩
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.