John Frederick "Fred" Fish
15, 1925 - October 7, 2002
Gariss, Senior Minister of the College Heights Christian Church,
where the Fish family attends, framed the funeral service. The funeral
sermon was preached by David Fish (Fred's son). The text for the
sermon appears below:
Funeral Sermon I Did Not Want to Write
David G. Fish
October 9, 2002)
is a funeral sermon that I did not want to write. I would have liked
my father to stay around for a long, long time. He has now gone
on to a better place, a place where sickness and death do not exist.
He has gone on to his reward.
a representative of the family, I would like to express our deepest
thanks to those who have expressed sympathy and love at this time.
May God repay you for your kindness to us.
is a time for remembering, a time for honoring. In these short minutes,
I hope to aid you in remembering my father. I want him to be remembered.
I want him to be honored. He was a good man. But, in keeping with
my father's faith and his wishes, I want even more for His God to
be known, and for His God to be honored. He would not want you who
have gathered to remember him to leave this place without knowing
the one in whom he placed his faith, our Lord Jesus Christ.
a Christian dies, though sadness and grief are present, one does
not grieve like those who have no hope. The Christian grieving process
is different--it is filled with hope. The hope that my father had
was based on his faith in Jesus Christ, who said these words:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in
me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so,
I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for
you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back
and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 6
Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one
comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-3,6)
in keeping with my father's nature, he had a pre-paid reservation
on one of those rooms. He has gone there now, to be with his LORD.
father came from a Christian family, and trusted in Jesus at an
early age. He was a pretty sharp fellow. He grew up in the Brandon,
Iowa area. He never lost his ties to that community, and returned
there frequently for high school reunions. He enjoyed those reunions.
I graduated from a large high school over thirty years ago, and
have never gone back to a high school reunion. Dad has always said
lots of things "tongue in cheek". About his high school
class--he was the valedictorian of his high school class. He used
to slough of the importance of that by quipping that the other kid
in his class was really dumb.
my father have a mischievous side to him? Why, yes, I think, though
two of his sisters are present and could probably better answer
that question. I believe that the answer to the question is found
in my father's love for life. He enjoyed life to the fullest. The
story was told; I really do not have historical validation of this
event, that in the Brandon, Iowa area, there was a pretty mean and
cantankerous neighbor. It is reported that each night before retiring,
he made a trip to an outhouse to "do his business". Though
it is difficult for me to believe it, it is said that my father,
certainly together with somebody else who was more guilty, waited
behind the outhouse one night, and with the neighbor inside, tipped
it over on its front side, making the neighbor's only exit through
the seat on which he was sitting. It is certainly not a true story.
Had I done something like that when I was growing up . . . Well,
we won't go there.
story that I remember was this. My father was a veteran of WWII.
He served in occupied Germany, and missed active duty because of
an illness he contracted at the time the rest of his buddies were
shipping out to war, and to death! He recovered from his illness,
and about the time he was ready to go, the war ended. He liked to
say that Hitler found out he was coming, and it was time to "pack
it in." It may have been coming home from the war. During a
train ride somewhere, there was a young woman who was interested
in him. Evidently, he didn't share her interest, so though he identified
his hometown as Brandon, Iowa, he told her that his name was "so-and-so"
instead of John Frederick Fish. He must not have thought he would
ever hear from her again. Some time later, she made a trip to Brandon,
Iowa to find my father. The person she found, however, by asking
for "so-and-so" was a married man who had no idea who
believe that my Father went through a period of reforming his life
after that event, which must have taken place almost 60 years ago!
Like I said before, had I ever tried to do anything like that .
Dad came back from the war, he went back to help out on the farm.
He owned and operated a farm implement store for a while. A few
years back, he told me that he made more money in one year in that
business than he had ever made in one year in the ministry. With
a growing sense that God was calling him to the ministry, he left
that profitable business, and went off to Dakota Bible College to
study for the ministry. That was the beginning of a life of ministry
that spanned well over fifty years. In fact, his first sermon was
preached on July 10, 1949 at South Elrod, South Dakota. His text
was Romans 12:2-- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern
of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his
good, pleasing and perfect will." Notes from his journal
titled My Pastoral Record indicate that he was nervous. It
came off all right, though. The journal reads, "It was a warm,
sunny day. (The palms of his hands perspired all the way to Elrod.)
With the exception of a little struggle with the communion cloth,
everything went smoothly."
last sermon was preached on June 30 of this year, nearly 53 years
later! That sermon was titled "Great Example", based on
Philippians 2:1-11. It was preached at the Iron Gates Christian
Church here in Joplin. During those nearly 53 years, he kept meticulous
records of his ministry. I would like to share some statistics from
that record. During his lifetime of ministry, he preached 4,069
sermons, officiated 160 marriages, 505 baptisms, and preached at
195 funerals. The last funeral sermon he preached was between Christmas
and New Year last year. He was a hard worker, who believed that
a church was built by using up shoe leather. He was one of those
warriors who just kept going, and who never gave up.
other day, when we met at the funeral home to discuss plans for
today, we were asked that question of whether or not he was retired.
He didn't believe in a preacher retiring. I guess in one way, he
was retired. He formally retired from his last, full-time pulpit
ministry, on May 31, 1992, with a sermon titled "I Commend
You to God" at the Morningside Church of Christ in Sioux City,
IA. But, like the Eveready Bunny, his ministry just kept on going.
He and my Mom relocated to Moberly, Missouri, where soon, he found
himself in an interim ministry at the Union Avenue church. He and
Mom moved to Joplin in 1994, just a few weeks ahead of our arrival
here. That saved me the expense of a few nights' motel. Thanks!
We have enjoyed being close to them during these last 8 years. From
1976 until 1994, we lived 8,000 miles from them. During the last
8 years, we lived just 8 miles away.
what does a retired preacher do? Well, to put it one way, he preaches.
In his 10 years of retirement, he preached 436 sermons. I invite
you to do the math. That is an average of 43.6 times a year. And
if you consider that he battled cancer for the last two and a half
years, and figure 8 years of active service after retirement, that
would be an average of nearly 55 sermons per year! In retirement,
he had interim ministries in the following places: Union Avenue
Christian Church of Moberly, Missouri; Southside Christian Church
of Mexico, Missouri; Bethany Christian Church of Springfield, Missouri;
Iron Gates Christian Church of Joplin, Missouri; Jasper Christian
Church of Jasper, Missouri; Central City Christian Church of Joplin,
Missouri; First Christian Church of Vinita, Oklahoma; Mound Valley
Christian Church of Mound Valley, KS; and the Blendville Christian
Church at Joplin, Missouri. You might be tempted to think that the
man was incapable of holding a job, but that would be far from the
truth. Several of those places would have liked to hire him full-time,
but he refused. He was a bridge builder, preparing the road for
a future minister. In fact, he preached in 78 different churches
since retiring in 1992. But was he uninvolved here at College Heights
church? Not at all! For years he led what at College Heights we
call a Care Group, which met in their home on Northview. For those
of you from his Care Group present this day, he really did love
you, and I know that you also loved him. He so enjoyed the last
evening he spent with you on September 26! Thank you for loving
him so deeply.
what kind of a man was my father? May I quote an article published
in last Thursday's supplement to the Joplin Globe?
may never make the top-ten list of a national magazine's Most
Admired Men of this Century, but he's definitely the No. 1 choice
of the hundreds of people who know him. Ask his school classmates;
ask his wife and children; ask the people in church congregations
where he ministered; ask the morning "walkers" at Northpark
Mall; ask his many Sunday school and church friends; ask his fellow
ministers across the country. All would agree that he is a man
whose life is worthy of being patterned. When the Spotlight on
50+ is turned on him, he can stand up to the scrutiny. Even deteriorating
health cannot dull his ready, quick wit and his engaging smile.
Even waning energy cannot diminish his quest for learning, doing
and going. Even failing strength cannot take away his love and
concern for his fellow man and family nor erase his lifelong faith
in his God. With a beaming smile he sums up the goal and focus
of his life, "I'm going to live until I die . . . and then
I'll really start to live."
116:15 says, "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death
of his saints." Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message,
renders the verse in the following manner: "When they arrive
at the gates of death, GOD welcomes those who love him."
weeks ago, my father was torn between two worlds--this world, and
his future world. As he moved towards the next world, we could detect
that he was releasing this life. Since his fall at home on the morning
of September 27, his physical strength waned quickly, and he moved
with acceleration towards the gates of heaven. How could I sum up
his life? Let me use his words. Just a few days ago, a very competent
hospice nurse visited their home. She had such a kind manner, and
was very professional. Before leaving Dad's side, she looked at
him, and asked him if he wanted to say anything. Would you listen
to his words? He said, "I'm just a sinner, saved by grace."
A sinner, saved by grace, indeed. A sinner, saved by grace, now
cancer-free, never more to suffer, because he believed on the one
who suffered and died for us all, and vanquished forever death and
Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, penned these words concerning
the resurrection of Jesus:
the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything
perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable,
this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come
swallowed by triumphant Life!
got the last word, oh, Death?
Death, who’s afraid of you now?"
was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that
gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single
victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone,
the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!
my father. All of you knew him, and loved him as well. I feel certain,
however, that he would want to take a seat in the background. I
want to honor him and his life, but more than that, I want to honor
His God. You knew my father. Do you know his Jesus?
©Copyright 2000 David G. Fish All Rights
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