This week we laid to rest the last charter member of Peninsula, Woody Stolhand. Woody, and his wife, Doris, were among those visionaries who banded together to form a more biblically based, Baptist, kid-friendly church family in Palos Verdes. Woody and Doris never left, but followed Jesus through all of our ups and downs over 58+ years.

At the service I found myself more overwhelmed than I anticipated. At a month shy of 102, Woody had lived a long and amazing life, in service of our nation and of his Savior. So gathering to honor him was something I knew was coming, but it was still very emotional.

I found myself missing the last connection to our founding that Woody represented. At some point it struck me that after all of these years, we were now on our own as a church family. Well, not on our own exactly, but without the legends provided by the founding generation. Jesus remains the Great Shepherd, but now the living links to our history are all off to glory.

I found myself overwhelmed by the love and compassion and sacrifice this church family has made in the last years in our care and love for Woody. He connected with many generations. Those who brought meals to him or took him grocery shopping or to a doctor visit hadn’t known him all that long. They just wanted to help. His participation in the Tuesday morning men’s breakfast enabled him to build some wonderful connections. It even got him some amazing waffles for us all to enjoy in The Pit as we celebrated Woody. He loved breakfast, and the theme of the day was the calling of Jesus to His disciples to come and have breakfast – after they had so miserably failed Him in the last days of His life.

Woody’s faithfulness has become our faithfulness, but only because of the faithfulness of Jesus. We shed some tears this week, but our theology allows us to grieve with hope. There will be a wonderful reunion in the sky when we all come together on that day and experience the presence of Jesus together.

Until that day, let us remain faithful to Scriptures, to the Savior, and to each other. May we cling to Jesus and look beyond the struggles of life together. I think that’s probably the only way the Stolhands could survive 58 years of Peninsula. They clung to Jesus as everything swirled around them. And they laughed a lot. The baton is ours to carry now. We must pass it along to the next generation – without dropping it. So let’s keep our eyes firmly on Jesus. And keep on laughing.