Friday, August 5, 2011

The Pall and The Aisle

Warning: This blog has little to do with England
I’m not sure what warrants a blog but I feel compelled, so here is yet another blog post:
“Ground of Being”
Her grip is firm, she clings to the cross
She fades from life with each passing day
How does she connect to the world around her? 
When all else fades 
When her grip is no longer firm 
How will she cling to an inanimate object reflecting her faith in a life there after?
Consuming the elements she takes the body of her Lord.
Making her one with sinners and saints
United through death, united in him
She makes herself at home, knowing this flesh too will fail
Assured in the end one thing remains; the God of the past, the God of her future and the God who sits with her as muscles weaken, and her body decays
Disease takes over uninvited, undeserved, unwanted, unearned
Sin and sickness envelope her reminding her of despair in this world and in this flesh that encases her
God whispers words of wholeness, perfection and victory, until on the last day the trumpet shall sound loud across the barren land. 
Christ has come in victors might, bringing joy, peace, and light
Rest to all, peace and pardon, Christ the triumphant, God her King.
This somewhat poetic/artistic writing I put together this past fall after church one Sunday. I remember the event that spurred the writing of this little bit. I saw a woman in a wheel chair in the back of the church. A woman I had seen several Sundays before now unrecognizable from the woman I knew. Somehow without recognizing her, I knew who she was. Uncertain of what exactly it was that allowed me to recognize her, perhaps divine intervention, (something I as a Lutheran should not talk about). I extended my hand and held it in what I like to refer to as the “pastoral hand shake,” this is where you shake a persons hand with both of your hands (Deaconesses are allowed to do this). We smiled at each other, and I remember feeling quiet uncomfortable being caught off guard by her declining state and the progression of her disease. She couldn’t speak much, if at all and I didn’t know what to say. I remember weeping when I saw the pastors giving her communion. It wasn’t that long ago that I felt uncomfortable being in a new school and wishing just to see a familiar face to ease the discomfort. This woman now fading from life was that familiar face for me. She gave me a big smile every day as I passed her in the halls of a foreign school. This woman who I saw not only at my high school but also at church never failed to ask me how I was doing when she saw me. Now I stood before her asking her how she was doing and knowing full well the state of her condition. 
Today we celebrated the Christian life Christ gave her here on earth and now in heaven. I had contemplated taking Kleenex to the funeral but I vetoed that since I am going to be a strong church worker and I have seen death and will see death many times in my life. I must confess, I didn’t even make it to the first note of the first hymn and I had water works out my eyes and nose. I wanted to shout the victorious words “He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” in response to the pastor’s “He is risen” but my throat closed up on me and my chin began to shake. HE IS RISEN! So why cry? Why the tears? I kept asking myself this and as I watched the coffin with the pall over it work it’s way down the aisle I lost it even further. I wanted to be strong, but I was just a big mess using my hands and arms to do the job of a Kleenex. How am I going to be a deaconess if I can’t keep it together?! How am I going to be a deaconess if I become uncomfortable in the presence of sin stricken bodies? 
I thought I would be able to be strong and keep it together but I was so wrong. At the first proclamation of a joy I crumbled apart, shaking, unable to calm myself. It wasn’t that I was sad that this woman had died, even though the evidence of sin in death is sad. It was more so the overwhelming reality of God’s grace and God’s riches poured out upon his people. The last time this woman’s flesh would make it down the aisle of her home church would be to proclaim Christ’s victory over her sinful flesh. How many times had she, mobile or immobile, gone down the aisle to receive God’s gifts? Now she rests in the triumphant victory over flesh. Now she no longer is enslaved to the decaying body that sin had taken it’s toll on. Now she is freely able to sing “Holy Holy Holy Lord! Lord God of Power and Might heaven and earth are full of your glory! Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” Same as the saints above and below sing to our victorious King. Christ IS RISEN! He is Risen indeed! To this I cling. To me this is made known when a husband takes his final walk down the aisle behind the coffin of his wife knowing that this is the end of an earthly journey but not the ending. To me this is made known when the white garment that is seen throughout a Christians journey is finally seen over their body at rest, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. I cry because I can’t wait for the day. I cry because I want all to know the hope that lies there in. I cry because I am overwhelmed by the grace God gives and the battle that he has won for me; for all! What an overwhelming truth that is conveyed in the funeral pall and the aisle! We walk the aisle as in a journey or a battle until our final breath where we will be carried down the aisle, righteous before God through his son. 
Job 19:25-27
 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
      And He shall stand at last on the earth;
 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
      That in my flesh I shall see God,
 Whom I shall see for myself,
      And my eyes shall behold, and not another.
      How my heart yearns within me!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Skype me!

Some of you may have already received a friend request from me on Skype, if you have not then we need to hook that up. I am trying to set up my contact list for those who would like to chat with me while I am in England. Shoot me a message with your Skype name if you are interested in video chat while I am in England.