Rev. Larry J. Hofer September 9, 1939 — May 28, 2024: Truly a Priest of the LORD

I was humbled to be invited by Susan Hofer to offer the following sermon and reflection at Larry’s funeral on Saturday, June 15, 2024, at St. Peter’s Church. Lewes, DE. The readings were Isa. 61:1-6, Psalm 23, Rev. 21:2-7, and John 14:1-7. The obituary is below the sermon.

Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, * and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Amen.


We are here today to share our grief and sadness, to give thanks for the life of the Reverend Larry Hofer. We also come to hear God’s word and receive the grace of the Eucharistic feast, the assurance of our eternal life in Christ.

We are gathered to mourn the loss of Larry, husband, father, grandfather, pastor, friend and mentor. There is deep mourning here and that is as it should be. The Prayer Book teaches us that human grief is an appropriate response before the gravity of death. “The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend. So, while we rejoice that one we love has entered into the nearer presence of our Lord, we sorrow in sympathy with those who mourn.”

These are nearly the same words the Father Larry used to open his sermon at the funeral of our son, Mack. I suspect that I will be, consciously or unconsciously, quoting Larry throughout much of this sermon. That was his impact and influence on my life and on the life of us all; the wit, wisdom, and love of Larry lives within us. In preparing for today, I returned to Larry’s words on that day of our own deep grief, and I was struck not only by the personal attention and care, but by the intentional, pastoral, and theological care that Larry put into his words for us, words he shared because he was truly, like Isaiah, one anointed by the spirit of the Lord GOD, “to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted.”

In that sermon, as I will follow today, Larry offered the message of comfort and hope in three parts. (I never noticed that until this week.) He opened with an acknowledgement of our grief, moved to remembering our beloved for whom we are grieving, and then affirmed our hope that we have in the resurrection. A preacher ordinarily wouldn’t share the structure of their sermon in this way, but I feel Larry, as one who mentored so many priests and preachers, might appreciate one more homiletical lesson.

So, Susan, Kristin, and Eric, we affirm that it is good and right to mourn, and we mourn with you. No matter how long and good a life lived, we grieve, we miss our loved one, and we mourn. Lamentation, expressing our anguish in loss and love, is a holy act. There is a reason why more than half of all the psalms in the Bible are laments, including the last words of Jesus on the cross. “My God, why have you forsaken me?” If Jesus said it, so can we. God can handle our anger and grief and he wants us to bring that to him.

Larry himself shared with us these words of encouragement from the Lutheran minister Granger Westberg. “When we say, “Grieve not,” [misinterpreting 1 Thess. 4:13-14] then we imply we are to be Stoics like the Greeks of old. But we do not subscribe to the philosophy of the Stoics. … I suggest that in this eight-word portion of Scripture we put a comma after the first word so that it now reads, ‘Grieve, not as those who have no hope,’ and then I [says Westberg] would add ‘but for goodness’ sake, grieve when you have something worth grieving about!’”

“And so, again with the words of the Prayer Book we pray, ‘In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn, give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until we are reunited with those who have gone before.’ In the midst of these things we cannot understand, we pray and we hope.” And we remember.


We remember a husband and lover (does that make you blush, Susan?), a father and friend, a pastor and mentor. Father Jeff Packard, now of St. Andrew’s shared,

“[Larry] was a mentor to me as I worked with him during his second year at St. Andrew’s. I came in as a newly ordained transitional deacon and was ordained to the priesthood here during that year. After spending a year working with Larry, I found myself the rector of two small parishes in northern PA. At least once a week I was asking myself, “What would Larry do?”

He was an excellent administrator, which was my weakest thing and I learned how to run a parish from him. He was also a dedicated pastor. He tried to get to the hospital to visit someone there every day of their stay, not an easy feat. He also had a real gift for hospitality. Larry loved to cook and often did for groups within the parish, presenting lunch for this group or that. The man was the energizer bunny.

Finally, when I came back more than twenty years later to be the rector of St. A’s, I sent him an invitation to my celebration of new ministry, not really expecting him to show up. As we lined up to start the service, there he was! I was shocked. Larry was classy like that. He showed up, which is a big deal.

“He showed up.” Larry did that for all of us, didn’t he? He answered the phone when we called, he came back to St. Andrew’s for a funeral and for the installation of a new rector (and probably returned a dozen other times and examples that I know nothing about). He answered the call of every parish and parishioner, even in his retirement. He showed up. Remembering is a powerful, healing, and holy activity.

Frederick Buechner speaks of remembering those whom we love who are with us no longer and the power of that memory. “Wherever or however else they may have come to life since [they have left us], it is beyond a doubt that they live still in us. Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still. The people we loved. The people who loved us. The people who, for good or ill, taught us things. Dead and gone though they may be, as we come to understand them in new ways, it is as though they come to understand us—and through them we come to understand ourselves—in new ways too.”1

As I remember Larry, I think of that fact that, like Jeff, I arrived at St. Andrew’s having just been ordained as a deacon. While there were no further requirements placed upon me by the Bishop, Larry saw that my formation for the priesthood was not yet complete. Since I was not to be a parish priest, having instead a calling to preach and teach, Larry focused on the practicalities of Sunday worship, liturgy, and the preaching of the Word. One Sunday, after services, I asked Larry why he turned to face the right side of the altar during the ablutions, the washing of his hands. He explained patiently and carefully to me that when he was being trained in his transition from the Lutheran church to the Episcopal Church, the prayers for ablutions were mounted to the right of the altar. So, he would turn to read the prayer and so he continued, even after there were no longer any prayers there. And so, I turn to the right of the altar to say my prayers of ablution.

Larry was generous in all things, not least in allowing other to preach. Not everyone may appreciate that this is a truly gracious trait in a rector. When I arrived, he told me that he was happy to have others preach in his parish, since it was healthy and good to hear other voices proclaim the Good News. He gave everyone one opportunity, at least. Some were not invited (or allowed) to preach again. One Sunday, I sat opposite Larry in the choir as a graduate student, who was also an ordained priest, was preaching and made a … curious comment. I looked across at Larry with an eyebrow raised and Larry, with his hands folded over his middle, slowly raised one finger.

What is amazing, and I only realized it when talking with you this week, Susan, was that we only overlapped at St. Andrew’s by two years. How odd is time. I would have told you that I had four- or five-years worth of tutelage by Larry. Of course, once having met Larry, he was committed to you and your spiritual growth, so our relationship was just beginning, but he gently put into those two years—into me—a lifetime’s worth of encouragement, advice, counsel, and love.

And I am simply one of thousands who can testify that this is the nature and character of Larry. It is fitting and it seems an apt summary, Susan, that you told me you met Larry “at the altar rail.” He was called by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to love the world, to comfort those who mourn, and to proclaim the Good News. He was truly a priest of the LORD.


So, as Father Larry would tell us at this point, “we come here [also] to seek hope and comfort in the scriptures.”

The Gospel, the Good News of Christ, is not only the forgiveness of our sins, the recreation of our lives, it is the re-creation of all the cosmos. “And the one who was seated on the throne said [to John], ‘See, I am making all things new.’” (Rev. 21:5) The story of all history is this: we were created to be in communion with God and one another. The Garden of Eden is a True Myth, as CS Lewis might say: We were made to walk among the trees together, with our God. We are separated for a time, yet God is unrelenting in his love to bring us together in harmony, peace, and joy. This is why he came to earth in the form of a human and why, as the risen Lord, he ascended to heaven to prepare a place for us.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

(I suspect Father Larry might have agreed with my Uncle Freddy who, on this passage, preferred the King James Version. He wanted his mansion. I do not think either Freddy or Larry are disappointed.)

This is the promise and the hope of the resurrection: Jesus, risen from the dead, ascended into heaven, has prepared a place for us, that all things are made new, as we enter into an eternity of joy and peace, together. Nothing will separate us from the love of God or from one another.

“God will dwell with us; we will be his people, and God himself will be with us and be our God; he will wipe every tear from our eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

This is our faith; this is our hope.

This past week, another Christian pastor left this world. Jürgen Moltmann was known as “the theologian of hope” and was perhaps the most influential theologian of the last 75 years. Larry often told me I should read his work, and now, I understand why. Moltmann wrote of the hope we have in Christ, the affirmation that this hope is not a mystical belief of the future, but the confidence of the present, the risen Christ with us, now and always. Moltmann wrote, “Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering. If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (I Cor. 15.26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death.” “…[F]aith is the foundation upon which hope rests, hope nourishes and sustains faith.”2

We live in faith; we walk in hope. “This hope [is] a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19).

I close with the words in which Larry found such hope and comfort, those of the final chorale of Bach’s St. John Passion,

Lord let at last Thine angels come
To Abram’s bosom bear me home
That I may die unfearing…
And then from death awaken me,
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
Oh Son of God, thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace…

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. ✠

Larry John Hofer, dedicated priest

June 3, 2024 

Rev. Larry John Hofer passed away Tuesday, May 28, 2024, at Delaware Hospice Center, Milford, in the company of family and after 84 years of a selfless life. He was born in Toledo, Ohio, Sept. 9, 1939, to the late Mary (Emch) and Harry Hofer. He was predeceased by his sister, Shirley.

Larry graduated from Kenyon College in 1961, majoring in history. He received his master of divinity from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in 1964. He served two parishes in Pennsylvania and one in Chicago, where he was also a Lutheran campus pastor at University of Chicago. In 1987, he received a certificate in Anglican Studies from General Seminary and was ordained a priest. He served several parishes in Pennsylvania, ending at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, State College, where he worked for 14 years until his retirement in 2008. During retirement in Delaware, he held various positions in the diocese, including priest associate at St. Peter’s in Lewes, priest-in-charge at St. Paul’s in Georgetown, and a director of diaconal formation.

Father Larry is survived by his wife of 54 years, Susan of Lewes. He is also survived by his children, Kristen (Adam) Parker of Lexington, Mass., son, Eric Hofer of Port Matilda, Pa.; three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m., Saturday, June 15, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lewes. In addition, it will be streamed live via St. Peter’s Facebook page.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Lewes.

  1. Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey, (San Francisco: Harper & Row), 1982, p.21-2. ↩︎
  2. Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pp. 21 and 20. ↩︎

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