Column – A sermon to rememberLead by example. Actions speak louder than words. We’ve heard these expressions and others like them. It’s not difficult to figure out what they mean. But sometimes it is difficult to live them.
By: Tara Bitzan, Alexandria Echo Press
Lead by example.
Actions speak louder than words.
We’ve heard these expressions and others like them. It’s not difficult to figure out what they mean. But sometimes it is difficult to live them.
We find it easy to tell others how things should be, or how we want ourselves to be. It’s easy to talk about the right way to live. But actually living that way is much more challenging.
For the past two years, I’ve witnessed someone leading by example, teaching some of the most incredible lessons. That person is Pastor “Eric” Erickson.
Pastor Erickson came to Calvary Lutheran Church about the same time I joined, nearly 17 years ago. I listened to a lot of his sermons through the years – sermons in which he was trying to teach me something…trying to share a lesson.
Of course, if you listen, you pick up things here and there, some more impactful than others. But the challenge is walking out the door and applying those things to everyday life. It’s just too easy to let the thoughts pass through you and go back to life as you’ve always known it.
But the lessons Pastor Eric taught over the past two years were different. They were lessons taught by living and doing and being rather than telling or lecturing through sermons.
Eric was diagnosed with brain cancer 22 months ago. And while he was determined to do all he could to win the battle, he also used the diagnosis as a reason to “step up his living.”
Through a Caring Bridge Web site, he and his wife and children kept family, friends, the congregation and the community informed of his treatments and his progress. But they also told us much more. Eric shared his “living” with readers – telling what he was doing, who he was spending time with, what he was enjoying about each day:
“We’re off to Okoboji, Iowa tomorrow for a week with a group of long-time friends…31 of us took the train to Big Mountain, Montana…we were able to make time to play guitar and sing together…had the most amazing time with local pastors this morning…I’m sitting in an Internet cafe in Juneau; how amazing! We’ve had the best meals, played a little cards, heard great music, swum in pools, been in hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms; again, how amazing…Our family joined several friends, and spent an hour caroling at Knute Nelson Home this morning; what a joy. Singing for people is so amazing…I’m grateful for how important Father’s Day was…how powerful and precious family has become.”
Maybe it was the fact that Eric was willing to bare his soul for all to see that made his lessons so powerful. Among his Web entries about medical treatments and social outings, he opened up and shared his feelings. He admitted to his fears, his depression, his frustration. He commonly mentioned times of tears…and of ongoing hope: “Change is all around us; why be ‘grumps’? We meet it, we keep shaking hands, keep adjusting, keep smiling, praying, trusting and hoping...”
And, to the end, Eric continued to share his never-ending faith:
“God has promised to never let go, to hold onto all who love him, and that keeps me going…God gives us ‘gladness amid all sadness’… Not one of us can fully predict what will come our way, or that of those we love. We can meet everything in God’s grace, held onto, nurtured, caring for each other…”
Eric continued his sermons long after he had to quit giving them from behind a pulpit. He and his wife and children showed us how to live, how to enjoy every moment with our loved ones, how to keep our focus wide and not only on ourselves.
Pastor Eric didn’t just tell us how to live. He led by example, and showed us just how to do it.
Pastor Harold “Eric” Erickson died April 2, 2009.