Doing What We Can

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the shawl knitted and given to Honey by a Brentwood UMC “Knit-Pickers” as their pastor adoringly calls them. There’s more.

This year’s Lenten sermon series at that steeple centers around pre-Triumphal Entry events in Jesus’ life as recorded in the Gospel of Mark. Sunday’s installment was about the woman in Bethany who anointed His head with “very costly perfume of pure nard.” You remember the story, how some of those sitting around were indignant about her wasting what they contended could have been sold and given to the poor. Jesus’ response to them was “Let her alone… she has done a good thing to me… she has done what she could.”

The Pastor’s closing illustration making his point of “doing what we can” went something like this:

“On the Sunday we left for Amman, I told a story about one of our women who knitted prayer shawls. She had passed away the week before we left. We took some of her shawls to give to some of the Jordanian refugees we would meet on our mission. After the 8:15 service that morning, one of our men -- I don’t think he’s even a member -- drove home and picked up one of those prayer shawls that had been given to his wife in her last days. He brought it back to church and said, “She would want it to be shared with someone in need.” It was our joy to give that shawl to an Iraqi family. They’re followers of Jesus, who have known great suffering. The husband had seen his mother & sisters killed right in front of him. ‘Jameelah’ he said. It’s Arabic for beautiful.”

When it dawned on me he was telling our story, it wiped me out. Having read my recent Facebook post, sweet Anne, my nearly octogenarian pew mate the past few years, also caught on early into the pastor’s story and gently patted me on the knee just as she used to pat Honey or reach for Honey’s hand when the pastor spoke about personal trials, sickness or suffering. (“Pastor Anne” has a nice ring to it, ya think?)

So Honey’s treasured “beautiful” shawl is now comforting an Iraqi family in Amman, Jordan. Would that please Honey or what! Oh my soul! I can see the bright smile and total delight on her face from here.

Following the meaningful sermon, we came to the Lord’s Table sharing Communion remembering that Christ had done for us what only He could do.

From that service I drove downtown for a later service where our pastor was preaching on Jesus’ pre-Triumphant Entry claim that “I am the resurrection and the life.” To reinforce that truth for us today, the congregation sang these fine words from the Celebrating Grace Hymnal:

When sorrow floods the troubled heart
     and clouds the mind with fears,
     affliction presses from the soul
     the bitter flow of tears.

God’s weeping children raise the prayer:
     “Almighty God, how long
     till tears shall cease and silence break
     and grief be turned to song?”

The voice is stilled, no words express
     the pain that lingers on;
     our prayer becomes a silent sigh;
     all mortal speech is gone.

The Holy Spirit groans in us
     with intercession strong;
     when tears have ceased and silence breaks,
     the Spirit stirs a song.

The sting of death cannot forbid
     the child of God to sing.
The scars we bear may long remain,
     but resurrection brings
     the healing of the broken heart,
     the righting of the wrong.

Our tears shall cease, our silence breaks
      in Christ, the living Song.

Words – Rebecca Turner and Paul Simpson Duke, 1989

So the morning was one of seamless worship – celebrating Honey, celebrating Communion, and celebrating Resurrection.  And the evening – dinner with long-time friends, Don and Janice. “…what have I to ask beside?”

- Mark

Here’s a pretty cool after-thought -- that shawl of Honey’s is having a bit of resurrection itself.  It was “dead” lying safely in the “tomb” (cedar chest at the foot of our bed) for a time but has now burst forth with new life, once again doing what it can. Alleluia!