Honoring Tony Edge
As I prayed over and over about what Tony would have me say, two things became clear, even resounding, that I know Tony would encourage me to share. In fact, I know he’d kick my butt if I didn’t!
1. Celebrate and laugh with me, or even at me, because I enjoyed and lived life to the fullest.
2. Tell them I knew the purpose of my life and share with them what drove me.
So, that’s what I’m going to do.
1. I had the privilege of being in small group with Tony years ago at North Point Community Church. I don’t know what a church small group brings to mind for you, but we’ve always described it simply as doing life together. Our group of 6 guys did that for a year and a half. We met weekly at each other’s homes to study a Bible lesson, to encourage one another and share what was going on in our relationships, our jobs, lament when our sports teams lost, eat cheap, greasy food, etc. Well, except for Tony. He was going to have his grilled chicken breast and tell us we should be eating better. Anyway, you get the picture. That’s the scene in which I first met Tony.
So, in he walks, sharp looking, intelligent guy and we’re all getting to know each other. Wasn’t too long before he first flashed that famous, or infamous, smile, depending on his intentions and/or your perspective.
When that smile stretched across his face, little did you know you were now in the inescapable grasp of a master motivator that was about to determine the next immediate course of action for your life. (It was like a Star Wars tractor beam.) He had this way of stopping you in your tracks with that smile, and then he would say, “Let’s do something crazy!” or sell you on an idea or adventure with, “Trust me. This is the best…. you’ve ever had.” Thank goodness for all of us he had such a good heart and intentions. There’s no telling the amount of trouble we would have gotten in otherwise!
I would sum up Tony entering a room or joining a conversation as, “Here comes Tony. A good time is about to happen!”
Tony was a romantic. (Guys, we might be in trouble on this one. Just wanted to give you a heads up that we might need to step it up as we leave here today) Two parts of his character played out really well here. Tony was incredibly observant and he was amazingly selfless. And those qualities came together in some beautiful AND funny ways. He had this knack for planning wedding nights for his friends. Giving the little gifts that meant so much to them, and even ordering and arranging the candles, rose petals, and chocolate-covered strawberries that would greet the newly married couple. (Again, we’re lucky it was Tony and his heart, because friends do other things in that situation too!)
But strangely these very qualities came back to bite him on the eve of his own wedding. He was so busy serving all the guests and enjoying the company of everyone that had come for his wedding that he hadn’t gotten to all the details he wanted to do to serve Melissa. In fact, he was so desperate that by midnight that night he was having to depend on his friends, Mike & Jeremy, to help him out. I know Mike & Jeremy too. Trust me, that’s pretty desperate! But, it worked out.
Part of the reason those of us that were in small groups with him over the years knew he was tirelessly trying to develop his character is because he so wanted to be worthy of receiving the full trust of another’s heart. And we know Melissa was that lucky girl
A couple of his friends were telling me how once he met Melissa, it was OVER for him. You don’t hear the word “smitten” every day, but that’s what he was. Of course, he aimed out of his league, as all of us guys need to do. He wasn’t even sure she would be interested in him, and I hear there were some “junior-highish”-type exchanges as one camp of friends communicated with another camp of friends to let him know he had a “green light”, but God had fully prepared Tony to love Melissa the way she deserved to be loved. And Melissa, you’ve told us that was confirmed at every turn.
Okay, let’s laugh at him again! Many of you know Tony had a musical bent to him. He loved to sing, strum the guitar and was drawn to expressing himself musically. What you all may not know is that he had the lapse of judgment to incorporate the rap genre into his repertoire. He would call and leave you these rap messages and, universally, every recipient agreed that he was horrible at it. Tony, from one homey to another, trust me, you are just too white to pull it off!
While he was universally mocked for his rapping abilities, Tony was universally praised for how intentional he was with people. He was driven through his encounters with people to leave them the better for it. He wanted to inspire, encourage, motivate, lovingly challenge, and lift up everyone around him. As family and friends you know that unequivocally. If you worked with Tony, I can tell you firsthand how he labored, even agonized, over the decisions that inherently come along with management that he knew were going to negatively impact people in the short-term. I saw that in small group with him. He always wanted to do right by you. As he served in the local church, he did so with incredible passion as one who realizes that God’s heart is “for” people and that His principles mean freedom for them. He was so intentional in his relationships with each of us because it reflects the heart of his Heavenly Father.
2. And that last point is where I want to leave us today. All these admirable qualities of Tony’s and the love and respect for him that brings you here today, he would insist that you know that those things came from resolving in his heart who God is and accepting Jesus Christ as his Savior. If you’re thinking, “Oh great! Here goes pastor boy with his Jesus spiel.” I would hope you’d know by what’s been said thus far, that I’m more real than that and know that I’m sharing this because Tony would be insistent that this be communicated as the message and purpose of his life.
Tony came into our small group openly admitting he had a lot of questions, maybe like someone here today does. In his head, he knew who God was, but he said he was searching for what it really meant to have an active relationship with God. Tony was always one asking, “Okay, well how do I live that truth out at work tomorrow?” or “I’ve got nothing but a personal opinion when it comes to this, but what does God have to say about it?”, and most like him, “I’m really challenged in this arena or with this part of my character I want to work on. Can we talk about it and then which one of you is going to hold me accountable to do something about it?” We did that for him and he did it for us in our time as a small group.
I think of Socrates’ quote that, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Tony very much examined his life and found the purpose of his life was to walk with and bring glory to the God who created him.
If you don’t know the hope and assurance that Tony walked with because of his faith in Christ, would you do something about that? Not just give it fleeting consideration, only to let daily life pull you back to its incessant demand for attention, because it is waiting for you right outside these doors.
Or, not just write it off and say, “I’m glad that works for you, but I have too many questions for and/or objections to God to walk down that road.” Would you hear me and Tony imploring you that God’s big enough to handle all of your questions and doubts, and loving enough for you to vent all your objections towards Him?
Or, if you’re in another camp that is all too common to us in America, you don’t hesitate to say you want to be a good person. You believe there is a God and the Jesus thing… it seems a little extreme that He would die for you personally, but okay, whatever, you’re not against Jesus. But, you’ve never decided FOR Him either, and you’re totally at a loss for what it means to have an active relationship with God. What you know of God and what’s been portrayed for you as coming from a 2,000 yr-old book, seems so totally irrelevant to your life that you just don’t get what all the fuss is about. Please know that you’ve most likely only had brushes with religion, which leaves you as hollow as when you started, or the misguided efforts of we humans that mess things up constantly.
God is different than all of that. His heart is only “for” you, and He desires a relationship that brings you acceptance and freedom. He actually designed you and knows what will make you become fully alive.
Tony did that. He examined life, accepted Christ through that examination and pursued God with all he had. He would thank all of you who joined him in this relationship with God for how you supported, encouraged and loved him. And, he would beg others of you to please let the message of his life be one that would have you consider the message God has for yours.
The Gospel is simple: God loves you and He wants a restored relationship with you. You can have that by accepting Jesus as your Savior. But, none of us accepts that blindly, and if you’ve never understood why you keep hearing people talk about this, please come tell me or tell someone in your life that you’ve got questions. God is honored by the questions and by seeking for Him. He wants to meet you in all of that and give you the same faith that you loved so much about Tony.
Finally, let me close with something Melissa emailed me the other day. It was their life goal and mission statement, but she even admitted to me it was really all Tony’s doing because, come on!, who but Tony could be so intentional as to actually do this. Let me read it to you.
To become like Jesus by loving God, loving people with all of our hearts, and encouraging others we love to do the same.
We live each day to grow closer to God without self regard to grow into our God-given potential and fulfill our purpose in life through pursuing an intimate relationship with HIM and demonstrating our love for God through sowing our time, energy, and talents into people.
• Serving people always takes priority over selfish ambition.
• To stay young in spirit, keep taking on new thoughts and throwing off old habits.
• To create a nurturing home of faith, order, truth, love, happiness and relaxation.
• To leave this world a better place than we entered it.
• To fulfill our God given destiny.
• To bring out the best in the people around us.
In Order Of Priority: We value faith in God, family, friends, health, education, career, and service to people.
Tony, mission accomplished!
Even sweeter, the words you’ve already heard from your Heavenly Father, “Well done, good and faithful servant.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Father, we hang on to these truths and this promise. We know how the days of Tony’s life were filled with goodness and love, because he showered that on all of us. And, we hold on to the promise that he is now dwelling with You forever. We can’t wait for a reunion and though we are filled with sadness and miss him terribly, it is not greater than the gratitude we have for the time we did get with him. Tony, you’ve left a wake of extremely grateful people in your path. We thank God for that and we thank God for you. Amen.