By Rev. Keith Tyson
Luke Keefer did not have cable or dish so he had to “watch” his beloved Yankees on his computer. The games he “watched” were not live streamed; they were pitch by pitch, play by play, digital print descriptions of the game. But he could “watch” the Yankees, and he did . . . in Cleveland Indians country.
Luke “watched” his home state Nittany Lions of Penn State play the same way, on his computer. He was a faithful Lions fan . . . in OHIO STATE BUCKEYE TERRITORY!
Luke LOVED ice cream, well, actually any kind of dessert. On most Wednesday nights after prayer meeting, he would gather anyone who wanted to go along with he and Doris to the Lynway Diner for pie and, of course, ice cream. He was certain ice cream would be in heaven. He’s enjoying it now, if indeed there is ice cream in heaven, because I know he’s in heaven.
Luke was so very normal. And yet he was so, very extraordinary. He loved baseball, college football and apple pie; how could anyone be any more normal that that? But he was also very intelligent and highly educated—he could have been in an out-of-touch ivory tower, yet he was anything but that. In fact as has already been mentioned here in the space a couple months ago, Luke could speak deep theology even as he butchered a hog or a deer. This was because Luke had the gift of bringing heaven to earth. He could explain the most difficult subject in the most understandable ways and never compromise the truth in the telling. And he never looked down his nose to do it. His students, whether they were a table mate at the ice cream parlor, someone helping him stuff sausage into casings, a parishioner in a church pew, or a college or seminary student, all were fellow sojourners with him.
I was Luke’s pastor. But first I was his student. He was my professor for several classes when I was at Messiah College. On the last day of the final class I had with him before I graduated, Luke had us gather in a circle so we could bless one another and he could pray for us. It was a small class of just seven or eight students so the sharing was poignant. When my turn came I told Luke how much we had all appreciated the way he treated us—not as students but as friends. His response was typical Luke, “Well of course you’re my friends. You are my colleagues and we are in this ministry together.” And then he prayed a prayer of blessing on us and commissioned us to ministry wherever we went. He was a lot like Jesus.
Over twenty years later when I was called to be the pastor of his church here in Ashland, I remember being just a little intimidated knowing that I would be Luke’s pastor. I think I was a little like John the Baptist when Jesus came to him for baptism; “You should be my pastor, and I come to you as your pastor?’ But that intimidation was very short-lived. It turns out I had learned from my professor Luke. I had learned that the people I serve as pastor are my colleagues and we are in ministry together. Luke was just one of a number of colleagues and fellow ministers and we are all being Jesus together for a world who so desperately needs him.
Honoring the Life and Legacy of Dr. Luke Keefer Jr. will take place on Oct. 2 and 3, 2015.