MAY 1, 2018
I have not posted in months. I have been busy.
In working on Roger’s Celebration of Life (which is tomorrow) I came across the sermon posted below. I tried to condence it to a 4 minute meditation for the service, and awoke this am knowing that these words are a BLOG not a Funeral. Roger’s much loved T-Shirt is a hint! The Celebration of Life will use the same words I have offered to every family I served about their grief journey, plus the familiar scriptures and Roger’s Story.
An email sent onSaturday April 28 begins his story….
My brother Roger died this am at 815 am today at Age 56. Mom also died at age 56 on a Saturday morning. Roger had been unresponsive and looking absolutely comfortable for 24 hours without any intervention except Oxygen. Two of his daughters came to visit; my sister Barb took us out for supper. Rogers wife Linda and Carol visited too from 6-10 pm.
ALS had taken away his muscles including the last hand he used for controlling the TV and playing solitaire and communicating on the IPAD. He – as a life style – took one day at a time and did not worry about the future. I asked him last August on a walk in the Indiana sun- “how do you deal with all the stress of this disease, and moving and stuff?” He looked at me like I was crazy and simply said, “what stress?”
Services will be Wednesday, May 2 at 1 pm at Wilson St Pierre Funeral Home, 211 E State St., Pendleton, IN. Visitation will precede the service from 11am-1pm. Feel free to share any of this text as you want.
How am I? Numb. Grateful. In awe that once he was done living with ALS he could die so quickly and comfortably. I appreciate your thoughts and reply’s; busy for a few hours today packing his room up.
The sermon does hold.
It is better as a whole, so I am posting it today as my blog.
First these words which may be in the service: Roger had ALS It attacks the nerves of one’s body, and those nerves no longer respond to your brain. When I think, raise my right hand, my arm and hand move. When I want to preach, I work hard on the right words, put them on a paper, then when I read them, my brain tells my mouth to speak, and you hear my voice. Not so for a patient with ALS.
Daily tasks get done differently. Right handed Roger became left-handed. The man who loved to walk around Pendleton had to depend on his wife and his friends to get him to church and around town. The middle of last June, Roger had to move to long term care because so many ordinary things had to be done with the help of others.
I was reminded of a sermon about the storms of life…and let me tell you after 10 months up close and personal with a man living with ALS, that counts as a storm of Biblical Proportions. I re-read what I had believed then, to see if it held true for me.
Sermon “Changed for the Better”
Gospel of Mark 4;35-41 PLEASE GO READ THE STORY before you read on!
June 24, 2012 Corvallis UMC 9:30 a.m.
July 8, 2012 Florence UMC 9:00 a.m. & 10:30 a.m.
July 22, 2012 Yachats Presbyterian Church
October 28, 2012 Sweet Home UMC 11:00 a.m.
Take fishing boat Jesus and little kayaks Christmas ornaments
Children’s time: Kayak – keep safe with PFD, wet suit, paddle and KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS!
Pray: When the storms of life are raging, stand by me. May the words of my mouth, the hearing of these words, and the living that follows, Be acceptable in your site, oh God of storms and sunrises…In the midst of tribulation, in the midst of faults and failures, When I’ve done the best I can, and my friend misunderstand…When I’m growing old and feeble, and I’m nearing chilly Jordan, Thou who rulest wind and water, stand by me, stand by me. Amen.
A great multitude had begun to follow Jesus. He’d done a few healings – changed some lives for the better – and now Jesus was beginning to recognize the downside of being so popular. In Mark chapter 3 verse 9 reads:
Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him;
A boat prepared and waiting. Then a very large crowd drove Jesus to turn the boat into a floating pulpit for a bayside sanctuary. Jesus teaching farmer types that the presence of God in their lives -(he called it the Kingdom of God) – the presence of God in their lives is as real as the eye-popping, mind boggling yield of 30/ 60/ 100 fold that the sower got back after his spring planting.
Imagine a 100 fold-yield! One little snow pea seed, one very tall vine, yielding 100 snow pea pods from JUST ONE seed that grew up into all it was created to be…and more. Awesome. That, Jesus said, is what the Kingdom of God is like.
Jesus jumped out of the boat pulpit and back to more teaching until that day draws toward evening. As the sun is setting,
Jesus says, “Let us go across to the other side.”
So, the waiting boat, The pulpit boat,
Became the way to ‘go across to the other side’ boat
The boat was a place of rest for Jesus – and a place of great fear for his disciples!
Those of you who are boaters or water lovers know the time for resting quietly on the lake is —– in the morning. But it is evening now, when they climb aboard. There are other boats with them, and everyone out on that lake is in trouble when the wind shifts, the clouds build and the storm arrives.
I imagine that side-ways wind that shakes my car when I drive across the Bridge in Newport, between sometime in December and this year…the 4thof July! Normal gusts are 40 miles an hour but this is a storm to take out even experienced sailors. Times were different for these disciples: there was no coast guard to call on, no personal flotation devices, no neoprene survival suits to put on. The waves are so high the boat is filling with water and I can see everyone on deck, clinging to the side rail with one hand and desperately bailing water with the other. Chanting whatever prayers they learned at their mother’s knee.
Then they notice Jesus. The one who had said “Let us go over to the other side!”
[pause…look over] …. Say “ there he was”…..[tilt head and breath deep and calmly, in and out — in and out— in and out—-3xs plus —in……]
TEACHER! DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT US?
WE ARE DROWNING HERE! WE ARE PERISHING!
Jesus woke up.
He REBUKED the wind and spoke to the sea:
A literal translation is: “ Be Still! Be Muzzled!”
In other words: Stop! Shut Up!
Let’s step out of the story a moment to think about these disciples.
The disciples were already changed –Mark says they met Jesus and IMMEDIATELY left wives and children and livelihood to follow after Jesus….without a lesson plan, a market strategy or a retirement portfolio.
The disciples had been changed when they watched Jesus heal a man’s withered hand right in the synagogue and on the Sabbath.
Jesus had simply asked the gathering of religious leaders and disciples a question:
Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm?
To save life or to kill? Mark 3:4
When not one person could answer, Jesus heart grieved, and Jesus was angry.
So Jesus invited the man to stretch out his hand. He Healed the man.
They’d been parable puzzled and now they are water-logged and wondering how it is that by simply doing what Jesus had told them to do,
they had nearly died!
Again, changed for good. Who could ever forget such a trauma!
As we step back into the story, just imagine looking at the faces around that boat, disciples who had just been saved by the power of Jesus’ words:
“Be still! Be Muzzled!
Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE reads like this:
Jesus told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “ Quiet! Settle Down!”… The wind ran out of breath, the sea became smooth as glass. Storm tired, letting loose of their death grip on the boat railing, gazing at Jesus,
this teacher traveling with them, and saying more to each othe
– or to us – than to Jesus —
Who is this anyway? Wind and sea at his beck and call?
Who is this anyway?
Lamar Williams in Interpretationdescribes this Jesus story as one first repeated to generate enthusiasm for a wonder-worker and to bring pagans to believe in Jesus. It is the kind of story that contributed to the large crowds that forced Jesus to preach from a boat.
But Mark uses this story to ask of his readers – and us – the question we all bring to the Storms of life, the chaos that comes to us,
the writer of Mark gives voice to our cry in the cries of the disciples,
DO YOU NOT CARE ABOUT US?
WE ARE PERISHING! WHERE ARE YOU?
In answer to the disciples and to us, Mark’s gospel gives Jesus these words:
Why are you afraid? Have you still no trust?
Can you not yet trust the God you see in me?
Into our lives come struggles and crisis
and gifts and people and disasters.
These “severe teachers” may be individuals
or institutions, illness, or new ideas.
Storms come to every life, sometimes even shipwrecks.
And we are changed for good.
The invitation from Jesus, from the writer of Mark,
The invitation from the Holy One to us
is to see the face of God in the presence of the Risen Christ
right in the midst of the storm with us.
When we Trust God in the midst of the storm,
we are not only changed for good,
we are changed for the better
I do believe that it is by walking into struggle, recognizing the storm, naming our fear and asking for help, that we live into hope. It does require us to recognize the Storm, to notice it, to learn from it.
Sometimes that is the hardest step. Naming the depression, acknowledging our grief calling for our attention, knowing when we are in trouble!
Mary Oliver, in Thirst has this brief poem:
(The Uses of Sorrow) p. 52
in my sleep I dreamed this poem….
Someone I loved once gave me
A box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand
That this, too, was a gift.
In her book, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, Joan Chittister writes:
Out of …(struggle) comes new strength
and a new sense of self, new compassion
and a new sense of the purpose of life.
It is struggle that is the foundation of hope,
not hope that is a hedge against struggle.
Struggle is the way of new life out of the execution on a cross,
the Christ centered, broken bread of life becomes
the sustaining food for daily walking way.
The way of life beyond the crisis.
It is out of the crucifixion that new life comes.
We remember that on Easter morning.
But often, like the disciples, we forget to keep our eyes on Jesus,
to see that God is with us, when our boat is in the storm!
At least 5 times in Mark’s story of Jesus, he says to the disciples,
“ Let us go across to the other side.” Now I wonder what that is about?
I notice that each time Jesus is taking the disciples from their home place to a new place, from familiar ground to new territory. And, I notice that Mark shows us – every time –
Where -ever Jesus goes, the power of God’s love transforms people in that new territory. Jesus said to the Disciples: Can you not yet trust the God you see in me?
Now that is Gospel.
That is good news, because in the year of our Lord, 2012, we are headed for new territory. We are surrounded by change and headed toward a great deal more change.
I wonder if God is inviting us to trust that Jesus will travel with us to these new places. Some we choose, many just come to us.
- Changed: tough economic times – which feels like a depression if your hours are cut back or your job has gotten bigger as someone else’s job is gone.
- Changed: one small mistake by someone else when you are driving or a new medical diagnosis can change your life forever. For good.
- Warmer wetter weather; the arrival of new sea creatures at first curious and then invasive; fire season starting earlier than ever; ALL ways our environment is changing.
- The grief that we find ourselves living within, after the death of a life partner, a parent, a child, a dear friend. This storm can continue long after our friends think grief has left us. Changed for good.
The closing duet between two life-long friends or enemies, from the Broadway Musical Wickedis “For Good” by Steven Schwartz. .
I find the song an invitation to celebrate the ways we are changed,
in such a way that we are not simply changed for good, but changed for the better.
Later that day, the disciples landed on the solid ground of Gerasenes, I wonder if those disciples might have acknowledged that they were changed, for the better, because they knew Jesus.
I wonder, do you think Jesus was changed for the better by having known each person he encountered in those crowds?
Was Jesus changed by each disciple he called by name?
Would Jesus say he is changed for the better because he knows…you?
if we can be changed by learning from the storms,
the boxes of darkness,
the tragedies as well as the gifts that come into our lives.
Are we willing to get in the boat with Jesus…and go across to the other side?
I wonder if we can allow ourselves to Trust Jesus enough to see God with us,
to be changed for the better?
“Changed for the better”
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
and we are led to those who help us most to grow,
if we let them
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
Like a comet pulled from orbit, as it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder, halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But, because I knew you
I have been changed for good.
It well may be
That we will never meet again in this lifetime,
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend
Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a songbird in a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe
I have been changed for the better.
And because I knew you,
Because I knew you,
I have been changed for good.