Funeral of the Rev’d Clark Baker, Church of the Holy Cross, Murfreesboro

“Happy from now on are those who die in the Lord! So it is, says the Spirit, for they rest from their labors” (Rev. 14:13).

Today we gather to remember and pray for our brother Clark Baker, a priest of the church; and to pray with his family and to remember them in our prayers as we mourn his loss. I am grateful to Fr. Jim and to the members of the Church of the Holy Cross for their ministry of support and prayer for the family in this difficult time. Above all, however, we gather today to celebrate the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who in the midst of grief is the source of our hope and the anchor of our faith.

Clark Baker was an elder statesman of the Diocese of Tennessee, our senior priest in these last several years. Since 1958 he served this diocese, for the entirety of his vocation as a priest, usually in small congregations in rural communities. He was best known, of course, in the Sewanee area, where he lived for years, and where he was instrumental in the establishment of the Mid-Cumberland Mountain Ministry.

When I met Clark he was retired, but he was persuaded to do some supply work at St. Matthew’s Church, McMinnville, in my time, for which I was very grateful. I benefited then from his knowledge and experience of the Church in Tennessee. I know that you at Holy Cross have also benefited from his ministry to you. This mission was only the latest in an honorable succession of congregations served by Clark over the years, in a pastoral ministry that was rich and blessed by God.

The text from the Book of Revelation that figures in our liturgy today has long been associated with Christian funeral rites. “Happy from now on are those who die in the Lord! So it is, says the Spirit, for they rest from their labors” (Rev. 14:13). The confidence and strength of these words are a comfort and encouragement, rooted as they are in the resurrection faith.

In Revelation they are words spoken by a voice from heaven, answered by the Spirit in responsive form. The words in that book speak particularly to those who have witnessed to Jesus, to those who have endured the struggle and kept the faith. It was a time of testing for the Christians to whom St. John the Divine wrote, so in that context too they were meant as a blessing to those in difficult times.

There is a part of the text from Revelation that is not included in our liturgy today, but which it’s good to recall as we celebrate Clark Baker’s long and fruitful ministry. Those who have departed in the Lord after running the course are surely now at rest, (and here are the additional words) “and their deeds follow them” (Rev. 14:13).

Any pastor worth his salt (and Clark was worth his salt) knows the challenges that go with ordained ministry, and the deeds that result: acts of grace and compassion; blessing and mercy; faith, hope and love. There are both sacrifices and joys that flow from the Christian life; mighty deeds that are done in faith. All Christians in the face of the great realities of life and death know this truth; and we should pray that deeds like these may follow each of us. We bring these deeds with us into the kingdom. Not as the sign that we have earned our salvation, because we haven’t; but because these deeds of faith are Jesus’ gift to us. Our prayer for our brother Clark today is that his deeds may follow him, and that we will all be united in Christ on the last day, in the communion of saints that has no end.

  • The Rt. Rev’d John Bauerschmidt, Bishop of Tennessee