In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:1-5 (NRSV)
“A New Year filled with Lament and Promise”
by Rev. Rick Pittenger
The aged Father Time has passed, and the baby of the Year of Our Lord 2015 has been born. With the New Year comes new possibilities and hope. In the church, our vocabulary is changing. We went from Advent to Christmas, and on Tuesday we celebrated the beginning of the season of Epiphany…it literally means to “to show forth”… we have little Epiphanies with each new day.
The “Could have would have”… Epiphanies… it’s about new beginnings… new revelations… it’s about hope during hopeless times.
This week most of the country has experienced the bitter cold of an arctic blast. The weather isn’t the only thing that affects our bodies, minds and spirits. The terrorist attacks in France seem so far removed from our lives on the Dakota Prairies; still we ache for them, too. As Natalie Sleeth writes in her hymn, “The Hymn of Promise”: “In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see…”
Shortly before Xmas we learned of the death of one of our 50+ members Betty McCambridge…at her request, the family did not to have a memorial service for her. I was surprised by that decision. The service isn’t as much for the person who has died but for those of us left behind to share in our common grief. Like you I have many warm memories of her time with us, from the picture taken with our Bishop as we honored 50-year members in both Gayville and Vermillion last fall.
Always the optimist, Betty took the loss of her right leg in “stride” --pardon the pun. When asked if she’d get a prosthetic she joked… “I’ve had such a hard time with my feet over the years it’s nice just to sit down and enjoy life.” Which she did for many years…
Last Friday we learned that an 18-year-old, Hali Strom, a child of a Yankton family, (Crofton really, but they attend the UM church in Yankton) died of cardiac arrest after an asthmatic attack while on a mission trip with DWU to GA.
I was able to attend the memorial service held at the UMC in Yankton . . . a wonderful young woman so full of life whose personality would light up any room, who loved children--and children loved her. She, too, will be missed.
Both those deaths, Betty’s full rich life and Hali’s full shortened life affected me. I turned to a book by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son. The book is based on his own diary of his experience after the untimely death of his son Eric, 25 years old, who died on a solo climb on a mountain in Austria. In his grief he wrote:
We took him too much for granted. Perhaps we all take each other too much for granted. The routines of life distract us; our own pursuits make us oblivious; our anxieties and sorrows, unmindful. The beauties of the familiar go unremarked. We do not treasure each other enough.
He was a gift to us for twenty-five years. When the gift was finally snatched away, I realized how great it was. Then I could not tell him. An outpouring of letters arrived, many expressing appreciation for Eric. They all made me weep again: each word of praise a stab of loss.
How can I be thankful, in his gone-ness, for what he was? I find I am. But the pain of the no more outweighs the gratitude of the once was. Will it always be so?
I didn't know how much I loved him until he was gone.
Is love like that?....
It's the neverness that is so painful....
It is to this time we come together: to look back on all that has been celebrated and look forward with hope for all that will be in this new Year of Our Lord of 2015.
Faith is about those things not seen with the hope of those things yet to be experienced and witnessed together as the body of Christ. Life is filled with new beginnings.
Together we reflect on the past, forever linked to it, but never chained to it as we turn the page of a new year of infinite possibilities and hope.
May God Bless us all as witnesses to others in the memory of those who have shown us how to live lives filled with faith, joy and eternal happiness!
Hope to see you Sunday,