A Service of Worship in Witness to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and in Thanksgiving for the Life of the Reverend Dr. Jeffrey Keil Krehbiel
Saturday, May 6, 2017
The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and Church of the Pilgrims
Today, I want to speak of friendship. Jeff was a treasured friend. He was a friend to me, and many of you here today, and many others who cannot be here today. He was a very good friend and I will miss him deeply and for the rest of my life. He made a difference in my life, and I hope in some way, I did the same for him. We were colleagues, companions in this ministry, for a long time.
Like leadership in other arenas of life, leadership in the church over the past 30 years, often, has been challenging. We have gone through a lot of change in local congregations, helping people deal with change in their lives, the church, and the world. It was a blessing to have my friend from seminary, along the way.
When I was a younger pastor, I was taught that most people are searching for individuality, community, hope, and purpose. (Kennon L. Callahan, 1997) And, I have found that to be true. People ask big questions like “Who am I? Who are we? Are some of my best days ahead of me? How can I make a difference? In Jeff, I had a lifelong friend with whom I could continue to ask those big questions. When we graduated from McCormick Seminary, we were in our twenties. It was a long time ago. Every year, we continued to talk about ministry and mission, our families, and our hopes and dreams.
Jeff and I were a part of our beloved Dog Bones group, an annual gathering of Presbyterian ministers that has met since 1993. Around this room today, there are many of Jeff’s friends. With his sudden illness and death, we are forced to begin this next season of life without him. Who are we, without Jeff? Are some of our best days ahead of us? How can we make a difference in our communities and the world, like Jeff made a difference in our lives and in the world?
If he were here today, Jeff would tell us a gospel story that would speak of the light in the darkness. He would help us to understand who we are, in community and as individuals. He would tell us that some of our best days are ahead of us. He would tell us, in no uncertain terms, to go out into our communities and into the world to make a difference.
Since hearing the news of Jeff’s passing, I have been listening, over and over again, to the song, “Blood Brothers,” by Bruce Springsteen. As I think about our friendship and our ministry together for the past 32 years, I think of the words of that song:
…We lose ourselves in work to do and bills to pay
And it’s ride, ride, ride, and there ain’t much cover
With no one runnin’ by your side my blood brother…
But the stars are burnin’ bright like some mystery uncovered
I’ll keep movin’ through the dark with you in my heart,
My blood brother.
Our Dog Bones group met after Easter Sunday each year. We were together when we learned that Jeff had passed away. We comforted one another in the wake of the confusion, sadness, and pain. When I think of our Dog Bones group, I think of laughter, fun, colleagues in ministry, and long walks talking with Jeff. At some point in the week, we would say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” There were walks on the beach on Cape Cod, in Florida, Virginia, or down the road at Stony Point, Holmes, or any number of conference centers. Life doesn’t get any better than that, walking and talking with a lifelong friend in ministry.
I close with the words of Tom Waits. I know, this Easter season, Jeff would love these words:
You can never hold back spring
you can be sure I will never stop believing
the blushing rose that will climb
spring ahead or fall behind
winter dreams the same dream every time
…you can never hold back spring
even though you’ve lost your way
the world is dreaming
dreaming of spring
so close your eyes
open your heart
to the one who’s dreaming of you
you can never hold back spring
remember everything that spring can bring
…you can never hold back spring
I will always be grateful for my friendship with Jeff. I know I speak for so many in this sanctuary today. Thanks be to God for Jeff, our friend and brother.