February 19th, 2018

Cecil’s family left it up to me to choose the New Testament lesson for this service.  There’s a bit of a risk in that, I suppose!  It took me most of the weekend, but the Lord seemed to put into my mind this morning the perfect Scripture for C. Bost.

The Bible includes a number of metaphors for the church.  You’ve probably heard of “the body of Christ” or “the bride of Christ.” There’s also the church as a family or  garden. Each of the biblical metaphors is rich in meaning.

A metaphor used less frequently is the church as a building.  That makes the parts of the church stones – or as Jesus’ disciple Peter calls them in chapter 2 of his first letter, “living stones.”  The metaphor was particularly meaningful for Peter, because the name Peter means “rock,” and it was a nickname Jesus himself gave to Peter (Mark 3:16).

So why is a “living stone” so appropriate a theme as we celebrate the life of C. Bost?

A stone doesn’t say much.  You’ve noticed that, right?  Stones are largely silent.  C. Bost was a man of few words.  One of the family’s requests for this service was that I keep it relatively short.  C. Bost would want it that way.

There may be many reasons for this – his personality, his generation, or even his wounds.  Ted told me his Dad only opened up once about his experiences in the Korean War.  He probably suffered from PTSD before anyone called it that.  If anyone would ask him what he did in the war, he would make a vague reference to doing laundry.  What he meant by that was that he cleaned military uniforms and gear of soldiers who had been wounded or killed in action.  “It’s really horrible,” he told Ted.  Life altering experiences like those tend to reduce a man to fewer words.

You did notice, though, that I said “a stone doesn’t say much.”  Not, “a stone never talks.”  There are actually passages in the Bible that refer to stones talking.  When religious leaders rebuked Jesus on Palm Sunday because children were praising him, Jesus answered, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out”  (Luke 19:40).

Some of us, I’m sure, use far too many words and they are more prone to being ignored.  When a stone speaks, which is rare, we all listen.  When Cecil spoke, his words were worth hearing.

Stones may not use words very often, but they communicate with their actions.  A stone can “speak” by its form or function, depending on what kind of stone and where it is.  This church is known to many as “the rock church.”  The stones people see speak truth and strength and beauty.

As a stone, C. Bost spoke by his acts of service, by his support (or lack thereof) of a person or institution, by his work ethic, by his initiative.  He gardened so he could share.  He built playhouses, swing sets, and sand boxes for the grandchildren.  He served in the church as a Deacon, Brotherhood officer, Boy Scout Troop leader, Sunday School treasurer, and Consistory President in 1983. He may not have used many words, but C. Bost spoke to all of us by what he did.

A stone can be funny.  If you don’t believe me about stones, Google images of “funny stones.”  You wouldn’t think someone of few words would have a great sense of humor, but that’s one of the ironies of C. Bost.

You heard about his sense of humor from Lindsay.  Everyone who knew him knew about that “snuckle,” as Lindsay called it, or that twinkle in his eye.  Gretchen called him “very mischievous.”  He’d say things just to get a reaction, or maybe to test out an idea before risking making a serious proposal.    He teased Christopher about his long hair.

Elizabeth said when she was growing up, her Dad teased her friends mercilessly.  If he saw one in a Brownie uniform, he’d ask, “What kind of disease do you have?”  When Lindsay graduated from high school, high schools all over were tiring of graduation ceremonies where cat calls and shouts interrupted the ceremony as each graduate’s name was called.  The principal that day pleaded with the crowd to hold their applause and response during the roll call of graduates.  You guessed it – when Lindsay’s name was called the “man of few words” C. Bost stood up and screamed and shouted.

You really need to hear Gretchen’s version of their courtship from her, but here are a couple of highlights.  They were at a party at the Blackwelders when C. Bost said to her, “I hear you’re a member of our club.”

“What club?”

“The divorced club,” he said, then added, “Have you ever thought of dating?”  It was his way of not asking a question without knowing there would be a favorable answer.

She answered, “No,” and that was that.  Some time later they were both supposed to attend a party at Century Furniture, and Alice suggested Cecil pick up Gretchen for the party.  He said he didn’t like taking someone to a party without going to dinner first, so that was their first date.

Not long after, there was another party, where Cecil said out loud to a few friends, “Gretchen and I are getting married in three weeks.”  He had never mentioned the idea to Gretchen before.  Later that night he said to her, “We need to sit down and talk.”

“About what?”

“Getting married.”  That was his proposal.  And speaking of few words, he told her he loved her and said he’d probably never say it again.  And didn’t.  But he showed it every day for their 36 years together.

A stone is solid.  Perhaps the main reason the stone is such a great image for C. Bost is because of his strength and stability.  That was true of him as a business owner and manager for four decades, both in times of prosperity and adversity.  When it became clear in the early 2000s that furniture manufacturing was moving mostly to China, C. Bost did what he needed to do with dignity and courage. Ted did say, though, that in the process of shutting down the factory C. Bost probably would have electrocuted himself more than once if Ted hadn’t been there.

Years ago I remember hearing that churches have two kinds of members – pillars and caterpillars.  Caterpillars come and go, and often consume far more than they contribute.  Then again, caterpillars represent life, and they also become butterflies.  We need caterpillars in the church.

But churches also need their pillars.  As a stone, C. Bost was a pillar from a family of Corinth pillars.  He’s the great grandson of our founding pastor, Jeremiah Ingold.  Jeremiah’s daughter, Sarah Emma Ingold, married Charles Carroll Bost, and they were the grandparents of Cecil Bost and Alice Davidson.  The two of them had been confirmed as members in the same class – April of 1877.  By 1896, C. C. Bost was Secretary of the Consistory, and served in that role at least until 1905 – that’s the last year of the minutes I could find.  Emma Ingold Bost’s portrait is included in a display about Corinth’s history in our Family Life Center, and we’ll make sure that building is open for those who would like to see it during the receiving today.

Cecil and Alice’s father, Cecil T. Bost, Sr., was the Chair of the Property Committee when the church decided to sell the downtown church and move to this location.  While the Shuford family and others are rightly recognized for their significant contributions to the building of the “rock church.” Mr. Bost served on the Executive Committee for the building of this campus, and Mrs. Bost chaired the Decorating Committee.  Mr. Bost’s notes on the process of building this current facility are very helpful in understanding how those decisions were made.

The senior C. T. Bosts also left a gift of money in memory of his parents that was named “The Bost Fund.”  Over the years the Bost Fund has grown and its proceeds have been used on multiple occasions to renovate the Althouse Room, where the family will receive friends after this service.  When we had the largest Capital Campaign in our church’s history, C. Bost served on the committee for the Capital Campaign and the building team.  Burk Wyatt, the chair of that committee, emailed me yesterday from Tampa, Florida, where he’s due to have cancer surgery tomorrow, with his deep thanks for C. Bost’s contributions in many ways to that campaign.  Later, most of the Bost Fund was donated to that campaign, and in appreciation we named our new Fellowship Hall and Contemporary Worship space the Bost Memorial Hall.  A nice plaque in that building honors the legacy of the Bost family.

We have other descendants of Jeremiah Ingold in our church family, but it’s a little sad to me that Cecil was the last direct descendant with the Bost name who was an active member of the church.  I suppose even pillars eventually crumble, but I will always be grateful for the strength C. Bost and his family have given to this church.

A stone needs other stones.  As the Apostle Peter describes the church in 1 Peter 2, he notes that the church is made up of “living stones” (plural).  I think that’s part of the power of the metaphor.  A stone really can’t do much by itself except maybe serve as a door stop or decoration.  For a stone to serve a purpose, it needs other stones.

Certainly in C. Bost’s role as a leader and servant at Corinth, he would have been the first to admit he couldn’t do it by himself.  The same was true of his professional and family life.  C. Bost loved ACC basketball, especially N. C. State basketball, and I’m sure one reason he did was because basketball is a team sport.  Elizabeth said he would fall asleep watching the game, but if someone changed the channel he would immediately wake up and say to change it back.  She also remembers that her Dad, frugal as he was, would throw money to others in the room if State won a game.

  1. Bost was a learner as well as a teacher. Being a good learner was what made him a good teacher. Ted remembers that when his Dad first started fishing at the outer banks, he would stop and ask other fishermen for pointers – what bait and tackle they were using, and so on.  A decade or so later, C. Bost became the guy that other fishermen would approach to get counsel.

My favorite story about C. Bost in relation to other “stones” came from Gretchen, who said they always operated as partners.  C. was reluctant to have his knee surgery, and perhaps this is the time to clarify that it wasn’t the knee surgery that took his life.  There was a series of events, not necessarily related, that brought the end for him.  After the knee surgery there was a stroke, then another stroke and heart attack.  When the flu hit both Cecil and Gretchen, it was too much for his weakened body.

At any rate, when the decision was being made last October, Cecil was concerned about all the risks Dr. Norcross laid out.  Gretchen said, “I’m with you 100%,” and Cecil answered, “I shouldn’t have it.  There wouldn’t be anyone to take care of you.”

Gretchen reminded him that they were part of a community, that part of why they moved to Abernethy Laurels was that they knew the day would come when one or the other of them couldn’t take care of their partner the way they had for all those years.  “Abernethy can do what I need,” she told him.

“In that case, I want it done.”  The decision was made because one stone always has, and needs, a whole lot of living stones.  Abernethy was, and will be, that team for Gretchen.

A stone especially needs the cornerstone.    Peter’s broader point about the living stones analogy for the church really has to do with Jesus Christ, whom Peter calls “the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him.”  Peter goes on to quote Isaiah, that whoever trusts in this cornerstone will not be disappointed.  A building of stones, even if they’re strong and silent, cannot create a lasting and beautiful edifice without foundation and direction.  Thus the need for a cornerstone.  This “spiritual house” called the church, or “temple of the Spirit,” as it can be translated, needs Jesus Christ the cornerstone.

Cecil didn’t talk much about his faith, but as I said, he didn’t talk much about much else either.  One way that he showed his faith was that, according to Alice and Gretchen, there was only one hymn he would sing in church:  “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”   I don’t know all the reasons for that.  Perhaps it was the military theme because of his own military service.  This hymn was also sung at the funeral of Dwight D. Eisenhour, general and president.  There’s an optimism in the hymn, and it’s an optimism of strength and teamwork.  “Like a mighty army moves the church of God.”

But it’s also an optimism because of the Cornerstone, Jesus Christ.  The “cross of Jesus” who is “Christ the King” goes on before us.  And so we will sing “Rock of Ages,” which was inspired by a rock cleft in an English gorge that sheltered Augustus Toplady in a sudden storm.  Life batters us by storms we never expect, and I must tell you I never expected, as I’m sure most of you didn’t, that we’d be having this service so quickly for Cecil Bost.  But for 88 years he has been raised to put his trust and confidence in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again that we might have the assurance of eternal life.

Christ is our sure Rock of ages, our cornerstone.  Only because of Christ, our life as living stones in this world and in the church, has stability and hope.  Amen.

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