3rd Sunday of Advent
December 17, 2017
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It’s been an extraordinary two weeks, let me tell you about them: The last Wednesday in November I was on my way home from a Housing Works board meeting. We discussed what our strategy will be if the tax bill passes and the tax credits we use to build affordable housing go away. Grace called me to say that Darlyne Green had died that afternoon. I stopped at Green’s house on the way home, and met her daughter Diane, who was still in process of calling family and friends to spread the news. They came to see me the next afternoon. They were still in shock; Darlyne had lay down for a nap, and didn’t wake up. We talked about a funeral and checked possible dates. They came back on Monday afternoon, ready to make plans for the funeral on Friday. Friday at noon, we had a service with music and sound, a light lunch and a graveside service. We came as witnesses to God’s presence with them, to God’s promises of eternal life; though we were not Jesus, we came to testify to his presence.
Friday morning, Evie Adams had a stroke and was ambulanced to St Charles ICU. I stopped in to ICU in the afternoon after the Funeral to see Evie, who grasped my hand like a life-line. She’d been waiting to see me. She was so sick it scared me. I anointed her and read a psalm to her, took her hand and prayed, claiming all of Jesus’ love for her, and all the promises of healing we count on. I came as a witness to the presence of God when our lives take a drastic turn. I came because I believed that God is present. I was not Jesus, I could not heal her, but I came to testify that Jesus was there and that Jesus could.
Monday afternoon, Mike Wilson and I put the final polish on our plans for Still…Still…Still. Stephanie had organized all the music, the location at St Andrew’s was confirmed, but we were way behind on publicity. As I left Mike’s office I stopped at the paper in the hope that Holly Scholz could still write a small piece for the Friday paper, and that Priscilla Smith could get something in the community calendar. Done and done. We were not the Light, but we were all witnesses to the Light that was coming to console the hearts of those whose Christmas is sad or complicated.
Tuesday afternoon I was with Evie again. She had moved out of ICU, and was much easier to understand. Wednesday afternoon Hazel Engstrom’s daughter-in-law, Darla called to say that Hazel was slipping away and wanted to see me. Grace came with me to Hazel’s hospital bed, smack in the middle of the living room, surrounded by loving family. We read the 23rd Psalm, I anointed her for her journey, we prayed, claiming God’s love and God’s promises to be with us into eternity. We were there as witnesses to testify to God’s presence and God’s love. We were not Jesus, but we came to testify to Jesus’ presence with that family.
Thursday morning I got a text from Stephanie with a picture of Josie Mae Fahlgren – who was expected to arrive mid-January. There she was all pink and shiny at nearly 7 pounds, a testimony that God gives and God gathers, and that life is stronger than death.
Thursday afternoon, Betty Roppe called to say that her ex-husband Don was hospitalized with an intestinal mass that couldn’t be fixed. The family was gathered, he was getting heavy pain medication, could I come. I was expecting a delivery of donated food for the Food 4 Kids project, and said I’d come as soon as I could after they came. The Middle School kids arrived like a burst of light. All talk and giggles, braces and scarves and jeans, they carried boxes of oatmeal and snacks down the back stairs and piled it all up in our pantry. It didn’t all fit and boxes ended up stacked in the hallway. They didn’t know it, but they were the testimony that God arrives with everything you need. They were not Jesus, but they were the testimony that Jesus is present when people need help and hope.
Thursday night I met Don Dimock in room 208 at the Prineville St Charles. I read night prayer from the New Zealand book of Common Prayer. “Into your hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit, for you have redeemed me, Lord God of life. Keep me, O God, as the apple of your eye.” We gathered as witnesses to testify to the Light, because we believed in the Light. We were not Jesus, but we came to testify that Jesus was there, making good on every promise.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.” A special job for that time. “Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” Sometimes we get to do the same work. It’s not just me that gets to witness, though I have the job. We stand at a bedside, we hold a baby, we wipe a tear or help a little one understand how the world works. We send a card or call, we read to a friend. We testify that Jesus stands among us, and that we believe God’s promises are the truest thing we know. A special job for our own time. Amen.