Homily Offered by the Reverend Dr. Robert Certain
State Funeral of Gerald R. Ford
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Jesus said many things; and many of his words have been reflected in the life and ministry of Gerald Ford.
In Matthew 5, at the beginning of Our Lord’s ministry, Jesus gives us a list of virtues in the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. The Contemporary English Version lists them this way:
God blesses those people who depend only on him. They belong to the kingdom of heaven.
Gerald Ford, you have always been a man of that kingdom
God blesses those people who are humble. The earth will belong to them.
My dear friend, this earth was yours.
God blesses those people who want to obey him more than to eat or drink. They will be given what they want.
Gerald Ford, you were well-satisfied
God blesses those people who are merciful. They will be treated with mercy.
Gerald Ford, you showed mercy when others demanded vengeance, may God have mercy on your soul.
God blesses those people whose hearts are pure. They will see him.
Gerald Ford, may you gaze this day on the face of your Savior.
God blesses those people who make peace. They will be called his children.
Jerry Ford, you were truly a child of God.
God blesses those people who are treated badly for doing right. They belong to the Kingdom of heaven.
Mr. President, we did not always treat you well when you chose the right course for us. Then and now you are a man of the Kingdom of God.
There was one more beatitude, one I have saved for last.
God blesses those people who grieve. They will find comfort.
Betty, Susan, Mike, Stephen, Jack, and your families, may God bring you comfort in this time of your grief.
Gerald Ford was a Christian man, a man who lived his life in accordance with the virtues of the Beatitudes. For us, he will continue to serve as an example of how to live as a man of faith, a man of the nation, a man for the world.
Early this past summer, as I prepared to leave for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, President Ford’s concern was for the church he loved. He asked me if we would face schism. After we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women, he said he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the Great Commandments to love God and neighbor. He then asked me to work for reconciliation within the Church. I assured him I would, just as he had worked for reconciliation within the nation thirty years ago.
John 15:13 - On the last day of his earthly ministry, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
In WWII Gerald Ford served in the Navy, willing to die for this nation and our allies
As he became Vice President, he laid aside his life’s ambition to be Speaker of the House
As President, he laid aside his political future to heal this nation
As Elder Statesman, he laid aside his treasured privacy to continue to serve this Church, this nation and the world
As a statesman, churchman, and family man, Gerald Ford was a man of deep faith and constant prayer. With confidence in the God who created, redeemed, and sustained him, his abiding mantra was Proverbs 3:5–6: “With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.” With that proverb in mind, President Ford found clarity for the road he walked; and he gave us a clear example to follow in our own lives.
Gerald Ford, in his public life and his private life, was a man who was quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. He was humble and meek, a man who cared deeply for the good and well-being of others, and always placed us first.
He was a man who sought the image of God in each and every person, who respected their God-given dignity, who worked all his life for justice and peace on earth; a man who let the light of Christ shine brightly in his life.
In John 14:1–6, Jesus tells us he has gone before us to prepare a place; and promises to return to take us to our eternal home. On St. Stephen’s Day 2006, Jesus said to Gerald Ford, “Welcome home, good and faithful servant.”
On St. Stephen’s Day 2006, Gerald Ford discovered his strength renewed and rose with wings like an eagle to the nearer presence of Christ Jesus, where he will never again be weary. Gerald, may you find your road cleared as you continue to follow your Lord in the Church Triumphant and in the work of His Kingdom of Heaven.