Pastor’s Pen March 16, 2016

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony…” Colossians 3:14

Sometimes life unravels when we least expect it, or so it seems. When I got the call on Friday that my father was taken to the hospital by ambulance, I was just then on my way out the door for the annual Women’s Retreat.

By Sunday morning, his condition had deteriorated and my brother called just before worship to say that he did not think my father would ever leave the hospital. Impossible decisions loomed. The doctors felt his heart would not survive the necessary procedure to save his life, and his survival without the procedure remained uncertain.

My father, who took me to church and Sunday school every week of my early life, did not find this news especially disconcerting. At peace with himself and with God, satisfied with the fruit of his labors and the relative stability of his grown children, he had made it clear for some time that he was ready to go when the time came. He made it clear again this weekend.

The suffering as it turned out, was not my father’s, but my own. As much as anyone, I am both familiar with, and comfortable with death. I teach what I believe, that death is not the end of our story, that whether we live or whether we die we belong to Christ who is the Lord of life. I stake my life on it. Nevertheless, grief hurts. It feels much like a toothache, sometimes dull and throbbing and at other moments unbearably acute. It isn’t that everything isn’t going to be all right. Everything is in fact, already and always will be all right for those who trust God. It’s just that I love my father, and when he goes, I will miss him.

On Sunday I prayed that the cup of impossible decision making about how my father would die would pass from me. And miraculously, it did. On Sunday you prayed for my husband and me and our family, and by Sunday evening, we felt overwhelming, inexplicable peace.

As it turns out, my father stabilized, at least for now. But the experience made it clear that there remains so much about life and death that we cannot understand. We do not know the day or the hour for any of us, and we have no more control over our dying and slip into heaven than our birthing slide into the world.

By the time you read this, I will by in Omaha, or perhaps even back from there. The physician suggested that I can pack for a visit and not a funeral this time. But that day will come as it does for us all. And when it comes, I know that my grief will be bound up by the love of this community in Christ, as your grief is bound up too, by the God who brought us all into being, and in due season, welcomes us home.

Prayer: Thank you God, for the sweet consolation of a loving community to bear one another’s burdens in Christ, and to share one another’s grief. Amen

God’s grace, mercy and peace,

Pastor Verlee