Sermon for Allan John Dieter, September 24, 2021

In Memoriam:
Allan John Dieter
March 20, 1931-August 15, 2021

Saturday in the Seventeen Week after Pentecost
September 24, 2021

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13; Psalm 84; Romans 8:31-39; Saint John 14: 1-6

In nomine Jesu!
Most people hear these words of Jesus, “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places … I go to prepare a place for you,” and “I am the way, the truth and the life,” as only about death and life after death.  Allan John Dieter heard them this way too, but also in another way, as integral to Christ’s call to him, and to all of us, to do as Christ has done; to follow in Christ’s way.  Allan lived with that mission.  Allan died with that sure and certain hope.

We do not know when Allan heard Christ’s call for his life’s mission, but we do know where Christ led him.  First to college and seminary; then, as a newly minted campus pastor, to California and into the loving arms of Donna to begin the life they shared and the mission they shared together; then, here, to Houston, to raise a family; to be among us and to change many lives.

For Allan and Donna, following Christ’s way and “preparing a place,” translated almost immediately into a passion for justice and equality; and Allan was propelled into the civil rights movement, marching with King in Montgomery.

Some wore “I marched with King in Montgomery” as a badge of honor all their lives.  Allan learned something quite different – and this part of his story must be remembered!  Alan learned that his passion for justice did lead directly to Christ’s way, the way of the cross.  When he returned from forces of racism in the church and, rather than spend his energy battling them, resigned from the ministry in order to spend his life, following Christ’s way, as a public servant.  Allan was no longer a pastor in the church, but for the next 60 years he remained a passionate minister of the Gospel as a worker for equality and justice; and as an inspiration and catalyst for us.  Allan John Dieter is a hero, the kind of a hero we needed in those days and desperately need in these days.  Though I briefly knew him, I will remember him that way.  I hope you will too.

Allan, and Donna’s passion for justice was for inclusiveness justice, and so in the 80’s they became leaders in what was then another counter-cultural movement, to care for and affirm the dignity of persons living with HIV/AIDS.  As through his pastoral ministry and public service, that passion saved and changed lives.

Yet, “for everything there is a season,” and time and age has brought Donna and Greg and Jeff and Chris, their families and us with Allan to this day.  And so we are gathered to remember him, give thanks for him, and commend him to where he has already gone, to the place Christ has prepared in the Father’s house.

We are gathered around the font and table, where God gives and nourishes us for the living of each day. But Jesus and the apostles also remind us that there is one other mystery here, at Christ’s Table, the mystery of the presence, not only of Christ as the Table, but also of all the gathered saints of God, Allan among them.  This table and the table prepared in the Father’s house is one and the same.  We eat and drink with “the choirs of angels, the church on earth, and the hosts of heaven;” we never eat and drink alone.

And so even at the grave, even in our loss and sorrow, we sing our Alleluias, in praise to God for Allan, for one another, and for the One who is the way, the truth and the light, who takes us home and sets us free.  Amen

Amandus J. Derr

Interim Senior Pastor