I've been asked by several folks to post the sermon I gave for my friend Dale Beatty at his funeral. It was an honor to speak on his behalf and to speak words of hope from a living Savior. Please understand that words delivered in 15 minutes are inadequate to sum up a life well lived.
I walked through the hallways of Walter Reed almost exactly a year ago o in my Army uniform on a mission to see my one of my soldiers who was being treated for terminal cancer. On my way to his room I saw a nurse pushing a wheel chair with a young man missing two legs and oddly enough on that day wearing a Purple Heart Homes hat. I looked down at him and said “Hey son what do you know about Purple Heart Homes?”. And with that crooked grin Dale Beatty looked up at me and shared with me the 30 second elevator story of Purple Heart Homes. I said I know who you are Dale and he again smiled and “Hey Brad, how are you, so good to see you”
I spent a little time with Dale and Belinda that day and hearing their story first hand, praying and laughing. For those that had the honor of spending any time with Dale, you know that laughter was always included.
We’ve missed that laugh this week.
Its been missed in the phone calls, the snarky texts he would send.
Its been missed in the offices of Purple Heart Homes where Dale lit up the lives of the family that he and John have built there.
That laugh has been missed among his vast network of friends across the country.
Its been missed by his mom and dad and his sister. That laugh has been missed in his home with Belinda, Dustin, Lucas and vibrant little Sophia. Man we just miss him.
We miss him because he was loved.
And the reason Dale was loved is because he loved. He just had a knack for loving everyone who crossed his path, he didn’t differentiate at all. There just are too many stories to tell in these short minutes today, those will be told over the days, months and years to come.
I asked Dale’s friends about a word or a phrase that comes to mind when they thought when they thought of Dale. All of Dale’s Army friends use the word resilient, oh man was he ever that. How could one man ever over come so much? He could have mailed it in after what happened to he and his battle buddy John over in Iraq. He could have just rested, and no one would have ever blamed him. But that dude bounced back and not only got back to walking, he got back in the game for others. Thousands of others all over the country. The relationships that are formed in military service, the commitment to duty and to honor and to each other are transcendent values that span generations.
John gave me poem that he and Dale loved and there’s a stanza in there that speaks volumes.
We have shared our blankets and tents together,
And have marched and fought in all kinds of weather,
And hungry and full we have been;
Had days of battle and days of rest,
But this memory I cling to and love the best,
We drank from the same Canteen!
God bless you brothers that served with Dale on the battlefield. God bless you John Gallina for being his battle buddy and for drinking for the same canteen.
One dear friend said, when Dale opened his arms and you entered his space, you felt so special.
Others said He never met a stranger. He lit up rooms.
He was known as the baby whisperer because he was known to be able to calm crying babies while waiting for airplanes.
Another said her memory of Dale was simply…”Roger that” . It meant he understood and was moving out.
Dale was notorious for sending harassing text messages to Parker late at night, just because that is who he was.
He loved music, He loved the drums.
Dale loved his family, Jerry , Celene, and Amber. Celene told me “If I had known how good my kids would have turned out I’d have had more of them!
He loved you Belinda, you Dustin, you Lucas and little Sophia. He talked constantly about you. Oh my how he loved.
And to be honest he’d be mortified if he knew all this fuss was being made about him. He always wanted the fuss to be made about others.
That’s because Dale’s life was lived out of love and love is always on a mission.
Dale’s mission was restoration. He helped bring restoration after hurricanes. He mobilized and deployed to Iraq to help restore a nation in the midst of war.
He got blown up, lost his legs and made his mission to restore himself to being physically functional.
Then something really amazing happened, this community. You in this room and others who couldn’t be here, rallied around Dale and built him a home and brought restoration to his freedom of movement and gave him a place to raise a family. You gave him a home.
And through that you inspired that man and John to set out on a mission of restoration for hundreds of veterans and their families. Not just to restore homes, but dignity and community. And Purple Heart Homes continues this mission of restoration to this very day and it will continue on Monday and hopefully for the next 100 years.
Any time restoration is needed is because something is broken.
This mission of restoration is not new.
Dale didn’t invent that idea of making broken things new.
No, this idea was fashioned long ago in the heart of God. And his mission: The restoration of a broken world.
Why is this important today? Because today we stand in the shadow of death. We are in the darkest hour, the hardest of days.
It is light that we search for today, light to see the way where there seems to be no way.
We also feel oppressed when death comes. When you hear of the death of someone you love it’s like having the wind knocked out of you. It just feels all so wrong. We pray it will all go away, yet here we are, its real.
We experience darkness, oppression and our hearts break. Its hard to describe a broken heart. Torn apart maybe…Loneliness…maybe, we may not know how to articulate a broken heart, but we know it when it has happened.
So in the darkness, under the heaviness of being oppressed and with broken hearts…we long for something…oh my goodness we need some good news on a day like today.
All the stories that we love, you know the ones that you walk away from deeply moved, that book that you couldn’t put down or that movie that had you sitting there 10 minutes after the credit rolls have a common element.
All of those stories had one of these days in them. It’s the point in the story where the hero seems defeated, where hope is lost. But in all the stories that we love, the stories that we long for, the good guy finds a way back…evil is vanquished, the girl is rescued and the day is saved. Good News!
I sincerely believe that there is good news amid the pain of today. And that good news is the Gospel. Literally…the Gospel means “good news”
At the outset of Jesus' work on the earth. Before a miracle was performed or a storm was stilled…he opened it all up with these words…in a stone synagogue in northern Israel quoting the prophet Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”
Just like every soldier has a mission to do, this was Jesus' mission concept. He recognized that in this world people were hurting, broken, lost, trapped. And that they needed some Good News.
To proclaim the Gospel! The Good News was his mission for He Himself was the good news.
And this Good News would result in these things
- Binding the broken hearted
- Bringing sight to the blind
- Setting free those who are oppressed
That is what we need in days like this.
To have the bindings cut free, a clear view, and freedom. Restoration
Jesus accomplished his mission here on earth, but it came at a heavy price
And just like we experience the darkness of this day, so too was there darkness in the story of The Gospel. It is that day where the hero looks like he’s not going to make it.
Jesus mission took him up a lonely hill in Jerusalem where he gave all for us all. It was His great love for You and me and Dale that took him up that hill. And waiting for Him there was a cross.
It was through the blood of Christ that the mission of healing broken hearts, opening the eyes of the blind and setting captives free was accomplished.
And then three days later, the very thing that brings all of us here together today, death, was completely, convincingly, utterly, defeated. Paul would later write as he proclaimed the Gospel, “Death where is your sting, grave where is your victory”
Yes the Hero is alive…Jesus conquered what has us hurting so badly.
Death always comes prior to resurrection, but rest assured that resurrection of the body is for real. Christ has shown us the way, for He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. When all was lost and the hero seemed to have failed, resurrection entered the scene and the one thing that we all need arrived with that resurrection….hope.
Hope is the one thing that will get us through today and into tomorrow. Hope that death is not the end.
You see we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Dale placed his faith in a crucified, resurrected God-man Savior…Jesus.
It was not Dale’s good life that secured this hope and it will not be yours.
What is required is, simple basic faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God and the Savior of the world. His death is sufficient to pay our debt.
Death will visit us all, but through faith in Christ it will be nothing more than a shadow of a cloud passing us over as we move from this life to the next…And then there will be a reunion, not like the boring reunion where the food is bad and conversation worse, but like a reunion after a really long and difficult deployment, but better because the deployments will be done. A reunion with belly ache laughter will greet us, with tears not of sadness but of unending joy. A reunion of love, a reunion of life, a reunion of all and for all! Death will be a memory that fade away forever.
And waiting for us there at the homecoming will be Dale, with his crooked smile and he will run to us on restored legs in a restored body. Restored forever. And we will laugh again!
So, what do we need to know now? Please know these truths.
In our cries God Hears
In our grief God Remembers his promises
In our pain God sees all
And in our lives God knows every single need and is ready with help.
So what are we to do now?
Today: We will honor the fallen
In the days to come: we will care for those that are wounded from the loss of Dale
And finally: We will continue the mission
Its what Dale would want.