Ted Loder, eloquent preacher, fierce advocate for justice, long-time minister of the First United Methodist Church in Germantown, and my beloved stepfather, died on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Ted always encouraged us to watch for the “sneakiness of God,” to notice how the mysterious presence of holiness encounters us in our everyday life with one another.
Ted died at 10:15pm on Maundy Thursday, which this year fell on April Fool’s day. Seems something sneaky is going on here; and I imagine he would smile knowing I am trying to write my way through the tears that flow easily now, on Easter morning, to discern the mystery of it. The sun has risen, and he is no longer here to celebrate it with us.
“Maundy” is short for the Latin “mandatum,” which means commandment. So Maundy Thursday, or “Thursday of Mysteries,” which was the day Jesus washed the feet of his of his disciples after celebrating his final Passover meal, recalls this passage from the Gospel of John:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”John 13:34
In reading this passage this Easter morning, I was called back to a moment to which I have regularly returned. It was shortly after I had started college, and ideas were alive to me in new and urgent ways. Ted and I were talking, as we often did, about the deeper meaning of life as we headed out on some errand or another. In my memory, he was standing on the stairs in the house in which I grew up and I was getting our coats from the closet. He stopped me and said: “In the end, the ultimate truth of things is relational..”
When I read again the “new command” we are asked to consider on Maundy Thursday – “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” – I thought how fitting, and how sneaky, it is for Ted to have died on the day our attention is called to this commandment. It is as if he is reminding us: life is relational, love one another. This was his parting sermon – when he could no longer speak, in dying on this day, he showed us how to live.
In some mysterious and joyous way, Maundy Thursday fell this year on April Fool’s day. Ted loved to laugh … and he had a great and boisterous laugh.
And while he loved to tell and listen to jokes, his deepest, most heartfelt, and contagious laughter always emerged from the joy of encountering those he loved. So often, I am grateful to remember, that laughter came easily and regularly with our daughters. They delighted him, and he them.
For the longest time after he and my Mom were married, I was not sure what to call Ted. His own four kids often called him “Teddus,” which I liked, but it felt too presumptuous for me as his step-son to join in the charming name his kids had given him. So together we set about thinking of an appropriate name for me and my brother, Jon, to call him. At one point he suggested “Twill” for TWL – his initials – Theodore William Loder, but that never felt quite right either. After some time, we settled on “Teed,” elongating the “e” in his name as a way to express endearment. While we adopted it as a loving name, he often joked about its other meaning – to be “teed off.” Soon “Teed” became “Teedo,” and then, with our daughters, “Baba Teedo,” an affectionate name for a beautiful man.
As it became clear over the last few months that he was dying, I returned to his writing. When I read Teedo’s prayers and stories, I hear the best parts of him – his most searching, poetic, and vulnerable self. I knew those dimensions of him well, and they come through eloquently in his prayers. These excerpts, from his first book, Guerillas of Grace, have sustained me.
Thank You For Each Moment
… Lord, thank you for each moment,
for the shared moment,
for the listening, the unguarded word,
for the fragile openness,
the ready smile, the accepted difference,
for my passionate heart
and the trust rooting in me.
to grow with whatever comes as a gift
and to praise you in it.
— Guerillas of Grace, 44.
I Want So to Belong
O God, I want so to belong;
teach me to accept.
I want to be close;
teach me to reach out.
I want a place where I am welcome;
teach me to open my arms.
I want mercy;
teach me to forgive.
I want beauty;
teach me honesty.
I want peace;
show me the eye of the storm.
I want truth; show me the way to question
my unquestionable convictions.
I want joy;
show me the way of deeper commitment.
I want life;
show me how to die.
— Guerillas of Grace, 78.
Sustain Me in the Coming Then
O God, empty me of my angry judgments,
and aching disappointments,
and anxious trying,
and breathe into me
something like quietness
that the lion and the lamb in me
may lie down together
and be led by a trust
as straightforward as a little child.
Catch my pride and doubt off guard
that, at least for the moment,
I may sense your presence
and your caring,
and be surprised
by a sudden joy
rising in me now
to sustain me in the coming then.
— Guerillas of Grace, 79.
May the sudden joy that rose in him abide. Let it have sustained him in his passing from this life. That joy is encountered in the new command Maundy Thursday reminds us to follow: love one another, as I have loved you; the deepest truth of life is relation.
May the joy and love that make themselves felt in our most meaningful relationships sustain us all “in the coming then.”
And since he loved Shakespeare so much, let me end by saying:
“Good night, sweet,” Ted, Teddus, Baba Teedo, “And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”Hamlet, Act 5, Scene ii, 297-8.