Tribute to Bill Lewis

William Horace "Bill" Lewis, Jr.
William Horace “Bill” Lewis, Jr.

2 Timothy 4:6-18 NRSV

In this fragmented and fragile world, friends, true friends, honest to goodness friends, friends that can be trusted, are hard to come by.

Before the Apostle Paul died he lamented to Timothy that only Luke had remained by his side, and, at first, no one came and supported him; all had deserted him.

Novelist S.E. Hinton spoke to this harsh reality of life when she wrote: “If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.”

There is no doubt that the reason that many of you are here this afternoon is because you have been “more than lucky.” You are here because in Bill Lewis, you had one good friend, an honest-to-goodness friend in whom you trusted.

As an attorney here in Farmville, Bill Lewis earned your trust. When you purchased your first house or refinanced another, you, like my family and I, trusted Bill to be at your side, read and translate all of the legal jargon of the contract, and to honestly look after your interests. You trusted in Bill to always give honest and wise counsel. With Bill you never needed a second opinion.

And whether you sold a business and made a fortune, or had to close a business and file bankruptcy, you trusted in Bill as your faithful confidant. And for some of you, Bill was one of the few, if not the only person in this world, in whom you trusted completely.

I personally experienced Bill’s unwavering faithfulness when I had the privilege of being the pastor of his father Horace. During each of my visits with Horace in the last years of his life, Horace never failed to mention how good Bill was to him: always bringing his lunch, stopping by each day, sometimes several times a day, to make sure his needs were being met. During the time in his life when he needed someone the most, Horace could always trust Bill to be a faithful son.

And Charissa, you could always trust Bill as a faithful husband. He was trusted as your protector: When you were traveling by car Charissa, he was always reminding you to keep your car doors locked and to make sure you always had enough gas in the tank.

And when you were traveling on foot and he was with you, he always made sure that he walked on the sidewalk between you and traffic (And, metaphorically, isn’t that exactly what he did for so many of us as our attorney?).

Charissa will also always remember trusting Bill as a teacher: the caring way he taught his step sons how to tie a tie; place the handkerchief in their coat pocket; how to shave; have manners at the table; respect other people’s property; always tell the truth; how to treat a girl; how to love and care for nature and animals; of the importance of appreciation for sports, history, family, traditions; being a Southern gentlemen; respecting one’s mother; the importance of obeying the law; how to play the guitar; how to shoot a gun as well as properly taking care of it.

Charissa, you also trusted him as a faithful provider: always putting the needs of others ahead of his own needs. Your needs, the needs of his girls, the needs of his step sons, his sisters, his Aunt Nell, his home, the needs of his friends and the needs of his clients were always more important than his own needs.

And all of us could always trust Bill’s honesty and impeccable integrity. I don’t know if she is actually going to do it or not, but Charissa would tell Bill that if she outlived him, she wanted to engrave “Honest Abe” on his headstone.

One day, Charissa lost her engagement ring. When she told Bill, he filed it with their insurance company. And soon after the check arrived, but before it was cash or deposited, Charrisa reached into her pants pocket as she was getting ready for work one morning, and felt, you guessed it, the ring. Charrisa said that Bill nearly broke his neck trying to get to the post office that day to return the check!

You do not need a preacher to tell you that such honesty and trustworthiness in this world is very rare. We can easily relate to S.E. Hinton when she said that we “more than lucky” to have just one such friend in this world. We completely understand the Apostle Paul when he said, “All deserted me. Only Luke remains at my side.” The reality is that honest to goodness people in this world are very rare.

And I believe there is a good reason for this.

Honesty and trustworthiness always comes with a price. This is something that we may not always realize and seldom think about. People who can be truly be trusted, people with impeccable integrity carry an enormous burden.

Charissa calls Bill one of the biggest worriers in the world. He constantly worried about his work, always wanting to make sure he did everything right and treated everyone fairly. He would often wake up in the middle of the night with his clients and their problems on his mind. And this worry and anxiety extended into his personal life as he continually worried about Charissa: her health, her needs, her care, and even for the needs and care of their pets. Are they safe? Had they been fed? Did they have fresh water? Are the outside dogs in their enclosures and are in the inside dogs safe inside, and if they are, where are they? Why don’t they come in here and get in bed with me? How about the cats? Charissa said when he came home, if he did not immediately see them, he would call each one by name asking me her if she had seen them during the day.

Caring for others, caring for all of God’s creation, being faithful, being trustworthy, being honest, is costly. This is why Jesus said, “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” This is why the Apostle Paul said only Luke remained at his side. And this is why so many of us here count Bill Lewis as one of the very few people in this world in whom we know we could trust.

Now hear the good news. In his letter to Timothy, Paul writes: “All deserted me, but the Lord stood by me and gave me strength…I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

The good news is that even when we do not have anyone in whom to trust on this earth, we can trust in God.

The late L.D. Johnson’s wonderful book, The Morning After the Death, ends with these words about the faithfulness of God.

“God can be trusted!  In the last analysis, Christians have no more persuasive word.  God can be trusted.   That does not resolve all the mysteries or answer all the questions, but it gives us enough to build our lives around.  God is trustworthy.  He is Lord of life and death and He is to be trusted.”

The good news that helped Paul fight the good fight and finish his race was that God could be trusted. And the good news for each of us, especially those who have gathered here this afternoon is that God can be trusted.

God can be trusted when God says:

“I will keep you from all evil; I will keep your life. I will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and for evermore.”

God can be trusted when God says:

“I will never leave nor forsake you. I am working all things together for the good. Neither death nor life, nor nothing in all of creation can separate you from my love.”

God can be trusted when God says,

“You will not die, but you will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

God can be trusted when God says,

“For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.”

God can be trusted when God says,

“One day the saying will be true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’”

The Holy Spirit can be trusted when the Spirit says:

“I am filling you even now with a peace that is beyond all understanding.”

The Holy Spirit can be trusted when the Spirit says:

“I am with you always, even until the end of the age. I will intercede upon your behalf, I will hear your cries, understand your groanings.”

The Holy Spirit can be trusted when the Spirit says,

“I will dwell with you and in you and live through you.”

Jesus can be trusted when he says,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Jesus can be trusted when he says,

“I am going to prepare a place for you.”

Jesus can be trusted when he says,

“And if I go, I will come again and take you unto myself, so that where I am, you may also be.”

Jesus can be trusted when he says,

“I am the resurrection and the life. Because I live, you will also live.”

Jesus can be trusted when he says,

“Through me, even though you may die, you will live.”

Jesus can be trusted when he says,

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

And just like with Bill Lewis, we know that such trustworthiness and faithfulness and impeccable integrity, comes with a great cost. Not only did it propel God to pour God’s self out, empty God’s self, and humble God’s self to become one of us, to become obedient unto death, even death on a cross, such divine faithfulness compels God, draws God, even today, to suffer with us, alongside us and for us.

Because God can be trusted, like Bill, I believe God worries about each of us. Like the clients of a faithful attorney, I believe we are constantly on the mind of God, day and night. God is very much concerned about the grief we are experiencing this day. God is greatly moved by the pain we feel this day.

And God promises to stay beside us, representing us like a faithful attorney, earning our trust as Bill earned it, standing between us and all sorts of traffic, fighting for us, as we continue the good fight, as we finish our race, and as we keep the faith until that day comes when we are reunited with our dear friend, Bill; our very good and faithful, friend, Bill; our honest-to-goodness friend, Bill.

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