Saturday, February 19, 2011

...though the earth gives way.

Thursday, we were headed to the memorial service of a man from our church.

Cancer. He was eight years older than Kevin. He leaves a wife and two just-grown children. He was the first person we met when we moved to Minnesota 14 years ago. We had asked the church if there was anyone who would help us unload our moving truck, and somehow Bob ended up at our door on a cold, snowy, winter's day. Cheerful and welcoming, with plenty of Minnesota jokes to get us acquainted with northern humor right off the bat. Through the years he was a regular person in the background of my life. Not one of our best friends, but someone I took for granted as being around here somewhere, someone I would never hesitate to enjoy a conversation with if we happened to be in the same place at the same time. Always with a joke and smile for the kids, a surprise from his pocket, the real deal, and unique in every way.

Driving down the highway to the downtown Minneapolis church, I wondered at my lack of sadness on the road. That didn't last long. As soon as I entered the lobby, I noticed the rotating slide show on the monitors. We came in midway through the lifetime of pictures. I looked up at Bob standing with his family, Bob cracking a joke with a friend, Bob in a Civil War uniform at Ft. Snelling, Bob in London with his wife on the big trip, Bob looking tired, Bob with oxygen on his face, Bob sicker than I had ever seen him. Tears started leaking out of my eyes as I slumped into the pew in the overflow area, where I planned to sit with the baby. I stopped wiping my face after a few minutes and just let the tears drip off my chin. And that was before his Civil War reenactment battery marched in to the wail of bagpipes and the service began with its carefully chosen hymns, memories of life-long-friends, truth-provoking poetry, friend-filled choir, well suited sermon and scripture that resonated with my heart. Bob has gone from what he called pre-life (nevermind that afterlife talk...this is just the pre-life!) and has joined Jesus in LIFE. His civil war with sin and this body of death is over. Victorious. Redeemed. It was a beautiful service remembering Bob and honoring Jesus Christ. Absurdly, I was reminded of Bilbo Baggins saying, "but today of all days it is brought home to me that it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life."

Sitting in the back, nursing my chubby baby–watching pictures of Bob from infant, to child, to teen, to young man, to husband, to father, to mid-life, to cancer–I felt I was somehow holding earthly life from beginning to end with all its joys and sorrows, right in my arms, as the tears continued to leak quietly from my eyes.

I remembered the verses that had so gripped me a few weeks ago, from Psalm 46, verses 1-3.

God is our refuge and strength,
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
     though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
     though the mountains tremble at its swelling.


I had walked around with the words rolling in my mind. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way. Therefore we will not fear...  Though the earth gives way?  What does that mean?  How can we not fear if the earth gives way beneath us? It really stuck with me.  Do I have that faith?  I want to have that faith.  Oh, Lord, give me that faith! I started thinking of all the things that happen in life that feel like that. Like the earth giving way beneath our feet. What am I trusting in? That thought has been with me for the past two weeks.

Sitting at the back of the church, behind the glass of the sanctuary, holding the baby and pondering the fleeting days of this life, I began thinking of how it is true, that through our hope in Christ, we can face death and not fear.  I had this image in my mind of the earth falling away from us in this manner: When loved ones, and others who form the tapestry of life around us, die and leave us–it is as if the earth gives way–one person at a time.  If I, or this child in my arms, lives for 110 years, the earth will give way, as one by one people disappear around me, around him.  In my mind, all the people I have ever known were standing soberly, facing me, then turning to dust and blowing away, quietly, one at a time.

Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way...


                                        ~Sara~





God is our refuge and strength,
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
     though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
     though the mountains tremble at its swelling....

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
     the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
     God will help her when morning dawns....

Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
     the God of Jacob is our fortress. 

                         ~Psalm 46:1-3 and 4-5 and 10-11

Robert W. Lockman, Jr.
November 17, 1954-January 24, 2011

Honoring Jesus Christ and Remembering Bob Lockman:
A Memorial Service of Worship, February 17, 2011

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
~1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Prelude: Morning Has Broken
Welcome and Prayer
Bagpipe Processional: The Minstrel Boy
Trooping of the Colors: 
     Company A, First Minnesota Volunteers Infantry. 
     Battery I, First U.S. Artillery.
Greetings
Congregational Hymns:
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus
What Wondrous Love is This?
O Let Your Soul Now Be Filled With Gladness
Memories
Choral Praise: My Shepherd Will Supply My Need
Poem: Jesus
Congregational Song: Be Thou My Vision
Romans 7:13-8:1
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Message: Bob Lockman's Civil War
Choral Anthem: The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Congregational Hymn: Victory in Jesus
Bagpipe Recessional: Retreat
Postlude









3 comments:

Melissa said...

Moving and beautiful and hopeful and sobering. Thank you, Sara.

*I felt I was somehow holding earthly life from beginning to end with all it's joys and sorrows, right in my arms, as the tears continued to leak quietly from my eyes* I love this line. There is nothing quite like this perspective to make us wiser.

I look for a taste of that perspective by reading biographies. M.L.Jones' by Ian Murray, and Elizabeth Prentiss' by George Lewis Prentiss are favorites(for re-reading)to remind me of a whole, good life that ends here and is gone.

And I have to mention your picture of the earth 'giving way' by the death of one person at a time. So good. And helpful. Much food for thought, and faith!

Thank you also for including the order of service. It was so beautiful, and I was blessed in the reading.

Happy Saturday~
Melissa

Jill said...

Well said, Sara. Thank you for squeezing your thoughts into such honest, deep words for us. I do think that as mothers we uniquely bear the weight of this fallen world and its fragility and brokenness and multi-faceted forms of death,as we carry our children into it and through it. The scope of what lies ahead for those sweet infants is so beyond us. Isaiah says he gently leads those with young...and we need that gentleness, don't we?
Jill

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog today through The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. This post had me in tears. I live in a small community (have been here for 11 years) and so many have passed out - one by one - over that time. I had my children later in life, then divorced and remarried. As an almost 49 yr old mother of an almost 6 and almost 12year old, I often worry what would become of the children if I died suddenly. Thanks for your perspective and for the nourishing scripture in this post. I also loved the schoolhouse story about Mr. Friend. Time does not stand still. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy each and every moment instead of being bogged down in the mundane. I look forward to reading more of your inspirational thoughts.

Denise @ Porter's Primary on blogspot.com

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