February 23rd, 2015

This is one of those funerals where most of you knew Kent Robinson much better than I did. I’ve been pastor to his parents and other relatives and friends for more than two decades, but I didn’t know Kent very well. That’s the main reason I’m going to keep my remarks brief and give you an opportunity to share your thoughts. If you are reading this online, you may also view the memories of others on the special Facebook page that was created in memory of Dr. Kent Robinson.

My part is to bring a faith perspective to this service. You may think that is difficult, since Kent wasn’t particularly a church-going person, except that he loved Easter sunrise services – especially at Old St. Paul’s where his ancestors worshiped. But it’s not difficult at all. He made it easier for all of us in that he knew last week his time was very short and prayed to trust Jesus Christ. I’m glad for that, because it means Kent consciously passed into the presence of the Lord with confidence for what lies on the other side and with peace. He was unusual for someone on life support in that he was fully aware when those final decisions were being made, and he rested in peace.

But there is another reason Kent made it easy to bring God into a meditation on his life. Part of what I do when I reflect on the meaning of a life is to look for connections between that person and God. The Bible says we are created in God’s image, and so we should not have to strain hard to see something of God in each one of us. My question: How did Kent look like God?

I read a couple of Scriptures about God’s love and compassion for animals; I could have read many more. The Bible is full of God’s love for the creatures of the ground and the air and the water. Their endless variety of shapes and colors is his idea. The complex functions of life are his design. The different ways in which creatures move, relate, and reproduce is a product of God’s creativity. From the beginning he gave Adam and Eve the privilege and responsibility for overseeing the animal kingdom. Humans have often shirked this duty of care for God’s furry and feathery life forms.

When a flood was going to cover the whole earth and destroy all life except one family, God said, “Now let’s make sure we preserve the creatures as well. I made them once, and I’m not starting again. Noah, take a male and female of every single one of these beauties I created.”

Jesus said if you want to know how much God loves you, look at how much he cares for birds and, for that matter, flowers. When you cuddle a kitten, train a dog, save an owl’s life, comfort a colicky foal, or even lovingly euthanize a suffering animal, you show something of the compassion of the heavenly Father and also his passion. He wouldn’t have made this endless variety of four-legged friends if he didn’t take great delight in them.

Kent grew up loving the out of doors. As preschoolers he and Teri would sneak out of the house at nap time, leaving Kris inside, just to enjoy the fields and trees of what once had been large tracts of farmland owned by his Robinson ancestors.  His love for the woods is why Scouting became such a lifelong passion.

Professionally, Kent never wanted to be anything but a veterinarian. His Dad had to go to Oklahoma back in the fifties for vet school. In the days of T-Models and A-Models veterinary practice was almost exclusively limited to farm animals. The senior Doc Robinson mostly made house calls up and down these rural roads to treat horses and cows. Vet practice has evolved across the decades into mostly pet care. Kent adapted to those changes, but kept that country spirit and feeling as he took over his Dad’s business.

But for Kent Robinson, it wasn’t just about the animals, it was about people too – the pet owners and also his staff. One of our church members, Jason Hefner, wrote to me last night,

Starting in 2001 (I was 16) I started as an intern in August and he hired me to work in October.  I worked for him 14 years up until last January.  We went on many outings as friends including Panthers games, a couple races, a few concerts (Van Halen) and several car shows (he loved international harvester vehicles).   He taught me many things about veterinary medicine that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise that you can’t learn from books.  I could talk endlessly about activities we did together but [those are the] high points.  Dr Robinson also presented me with my white coat in vet school symbolizing my starting of veterinary school. His main loves were Washington Redskins, International Harvester vehicles, NC State, and any animal that walked through the door.

If you haven’t read those Facebook posts yet, you should. What Jason says is corroborated by so many others. Mike Arduca posted this morning that people ask him why he drives 45 miles to a vet. It’s because “Dr. Kent Robinson was an awesome doc.” Like many others, Mike spoke of the whole cycle of life – from bringing puppies to Dr. Robinson to start well, to bringing other animals to say goodbye. When you know your vet cares as much as you do that it’s time to put your pet down, it touches your heart.

So many of the posts talk about his saving their “baby’s” life through surgery or some other procedure. Andrea Spencer wrote about how she thought her 17-year-old cat’s life was over due to cancer, but Dr. Robinson removed an abscess, charged only $25, and sent her “sweet old girl” home the same day to heal. That theme of providing services for what people could pay ran through many of the comments about Kent Robinson. His compassion toward animals was the way Kent said to people, “What matters to you matters to me. If I can help your baby live longer or feel better, I’ll do it.”

Kent’s family shared so many other great stories with me yesterday, and there are many more already on Facebook. Rather than my trying to tell them all, however, we decided to give some of you a minute or two to tell your favorite Kent Robinson story.

Before you do, I’ll just summarize my main point again. Every human being bears the image of God. To be sure, sin has marred that image, and Kent Robinson was a sinner too with his faults and failures. Our sin is why Christ came into the world and died for our sins so that we might have the hope of eternal life. But even in a fallen world of sinners, you can see God’s likeness shine through. I know there is a lot of evil around, and people who do bad things get more press than people who do good things.

But if you open your eyes to see, you’ll be encouraged by seeing God-like qualities in people. If you ever are losing sight of the fact that God’s compassion runs deep for you and me from the beginning of life and to the moment we die, remember Dr. Kent Robinson.   Amen.


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