By The Rev. Charles Hoffacker
We read in the biblical book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time to tear down and a time to build up [3:3]. It may be given to some people to tear down, that may be their duty, but others have a different vocation, namely to build up, and that was how Bob Taylor spent his life. He was a builder.
He and Sandi built a marriage together, and together they built a family, a community of love that continues to bear witness to their commitment. Bob also contributed to the building up of his country through his service in the Navy.
But the most public role Bob had as a builder was to lay foundations, and raise up walls, and extend roofing, and do the thousand other tasks necessary for the construction of edifices of many sorts. Bob was a builder of buildings. The results of his labor dot the face of the earth and provide shelter and space for thousands who do not know his name.
In his later years, Bob built a great many churches, houses of the Lord, mansions of the Spirit. Here at St. Peter’s we are grateful for the major role he played in this building’s new expansion, the care and concern he lavished upon it, especially when the process got stuck and people felt frustrated. Bob was there for us during those tough times.
Often I saw him walking this property, wearing his hardhat, a watchful steward over the construction project. How glad I am that he was present among us last month when the expansion was dedicated with solemn prayer and joyous celebration.
In his short poem “Cathedral Builders,” John Ormond sets forth the daily rhythm of men who “climbed on sketchy ladders toward God” to build the architectural masterpieces of the Middle Ages. The poem concludes with the consecration of the cathedral after decades of labor. There in the congregation, one of the builders, now no longer young, looking skyward with satisfaction, says to himself with a smile, “I bloody did that.” [John Ormond, “Cathedral Builders” in Peter Levi, ed., The Penguin Book of English Christian Verse (Penguin Books, 1984), p. 368.]
I find in these lines something of Bob Taylor, for he took quiet pride and pleasure in this work he performed so responsibly. I don’t think he would have done it if he did not love it, if he did not like it
Bob chose the readings for today’s service from the selections listed in the Book of Common Prayer. So it comes as no surprise that we heard a passage from St. Paul that makes reference to buildings.
That passage speaks of the tent, the building, which we now have from God, and how that building wastes away, how it comes to be destroyed. This dissolution is part of our human condition. As each of us must, Bob experienced this in a unique way.
But in these words from St. Paul we also hear a promise. The God who provides us with our initial shelter, this earthly tent, the body that fails us sooner or later, promises us something else, “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” In this promise Bob Taylor put his trust.
He was himself a competent and reliable builder. Yet he put his trust in a builder far better than himself, one who builds not for this earth alone, but for a glorious eternity.
By faith Bob knew himself to be party to a project that must happen past our sight, for again, as St. Paul tells us, “what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.”
Bob labored to transform this place into something even better than what it had been. Portions of the old facility had to be demolished if another was to rise up on the same site.
He realized the same must happen with him, and he trusted the one who would do the work. He trusted the Lord who first put him in this bright world to place him in a world of glory past our ability to imagine.
Bob trusted this even better builder because he knew his work. The Father’s resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the opening installment in the overhaul of creation. As Christians we live between the Easter of Jesus and the Easter of the universe, known also as the general resurrection.
St. Paul refers to the raising of Jesus as the first fruits of an enormous harvest. [1 Corinthians 15:20] Bob looked ahead to this harvest for he believed in the Christ who died on the cross and appeared alive to his followers.
But perhaps Bob Taylor would prefer a different term for this than “first fruits.” He may have chosen to understand the Easter event as that even better builder’s first day on a new job, a job that would include, in due course, Bob’s own resurrection to unconquerable life.
• Copyright 2008, Charles Hoffacker. Used by permission. Fr. Hoffacker is the author of A Matter of Life and Death: Preaching at Funerals (Cowley Publications), a book devoted to helping clergy prepare funeral homilies that are faithful, pastoral, and personal.