Every Sunday I’ve been able to count on talking to Mr. George Koldenhoven in the back of our sanctuary at Elmhurst CRC. George has not only been a steady presence, but has been the first person to arrive (after staff) for Sunday morning worship. He would motor over from Park Place in his wheelchair and head directly to the sanctuary. George was the kind of guy who liked to arrive early just to get a good seat no matter what the occasion.
It has become an ingrained part of my Sunday morning routine to greet George, talk about hymns, music, or whatever else was on George’s mind and wish him the best for a good morning of worship. Recently, George switched things up a bit. In early September, George wheeled down to the front of the sanctuary (a first!) and started asking questions about the pipe organ, the piano, how we planned worship services, and what goes on behind the scenes to make worship services come together. I inwardly noted, “This guy is amazing! More than 90 years old and still curious and passionate about worship!”
Just a few weeks after this burst of enthusiasm, George had a couple of falls and on September 29, after a brief decline, died and passed from this life into the arms of Jesus and into real life. It seems like George had some inklings during these last few months that his earthly end was near. In his last weeks George made it clear that he was done with the need for acute medical care and was ready to move on to heaven.
I’m convinced that God often gives people a gracious “heads up” that the transition from time to eternity is near. I believe that this explains George’s increased curiosity about worship. I also believe it explains George’s conversion (as Rev. Mark Van Stee put it at George’s memorial service) from “lifelong Reformed Christian to more of a Southern Baptist” in terms of his spiritual expressiveness.
At the very end of his life, George no longer felt the need to quiet the “Amens” and other enthusiasm that the Spirit was stirring inside of him. This is amazing and precious. Imagine facing the end of your life and feeling your spiritual fire burn hotter, your gratitude to God growing stronger. I want that!
George’s legacy will live on at Elmhurst CRC. He is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather to some fine folks at Elmhurst CRC who will carry forward George’s best qualities and gifts. However, there is now room for others to be first in line for worship!
And we would be wise to take a page (the last page!) from George’s book and let the spiritual fires burn brightly while we have life and breath to shout “Amen!”
I remember George daily. In the corner of my office there is an ancient baptismal font that once resided at Evergreen Park CRC. George was baptized from that font 91 years ago into the family and promises of God. Its presence in my office serves as a regular reminder that God has a long, strong track record -- and that God longs to do new, never-been-done-before things in this present time to renew his church and bring healing to the world. Amen to that!
May God bless you with an enthusiastic and fiery experience of worship this weekend.
- Pastor Gregg