Friday, January 6, 2012

Surely Goodness and Mercy

Another whirlwind over the next couple of days and as happens more often than not big theological stuff gathers in piles as I prepare to baptize a baby and an eight year old, install our council members and lead a retreat to help us begin to shape and discern for our first full year together in ministry, and then the next day proclaim resurrection victory with the family of a spry 97 year old woman who until recently was a real spitfire by all accounts. If I only I had met her, but as it is I will stand at the graveside of a third woman whose life will remind me here was another great story I just missed.
She was born in 1915, and would go on to meet the world with determination and a sense of wonder and adventure who was a loving teacher immersing herself in history, nature, and travel. Immersing myself in the time in which she was born, it made me smile to see that someone who was so invested in Girl Scouting was born in the year Girl Scouts was founded. A woman with a zest for travel who was one of the earliest travelers to China, was born in the year of the Worlds Fair in San Francisco and the Pacific Exposition was all the rage. A woman who embraced new ideas and would not be held back, born the year another daring woman, Eleanora Sears was the first female equestrienne to ride astride and NOT sidesaddle at the National Horse Show.
The day after we celebrate the baptism of our Lord, in a no holds barred account of Jesus' ministry being unleashed by the power of the Spirit in the Gospel of Mark, I cannot help but envision Dorothy as a woman who fully charged forth to encounter God's world, and to live out her identity as a child of God in the fullest, not only for herself but for the sake of so many to whom she both taught and lived her faith.
When I asked if there were any particular passages of Scripture with which she was most connected, I was not told a passage to use, but a passage to NOT use. This piqued my curiosity- DO NOT USE PSALM 23 I was told!
But then I learned the back story- that a young girl in the 1920's and 1930's saw executions of criminals in the time of our history when such events were public spectacles. And Psalm 23 was always spoken at such times. In the face of executions she simply could not hear these words because how they were connected to imposed deaths.
I can't help but wonder whether God might not feel the same way.
But at the same time if ever there was a person who truly embodied a belief that God is always there to lead and guide us, who was determined to live in faith of the words "surely goodness and mercy" really following us each day, and seeking to share goodness and mercy and rejoicing at an overflowing cup of life, it was Dorothy. Now we miss her here but she has fully discovered that surely goodness and mercy is true and the rest of the promise is true as well- that the final destination on an incredible journey is that we dwell with God forever. Thanks be to God!


Anonymous said...

It's interesting how certain Bible passages take on negative connotations when they are used in circumstances which reflect extreme trauma in our lives. For me it's I Cor 13 -- a passage I can barely stand to hear -- and I absolutely did not want Psalm 23 read at my son's funeral, for similar reasons. Three years later, however, it became a strand in my ordination service intended to bring his presence into the sanctuary. Things change.

Law+Gospel said...

Yes. I find the same thing with hymns. Over the years certain songs take on new meaning based upon life events. Ever since a beloved pastor died I cannot sing "Lift high the Cross" without crying but could never imagine my ordination without it and his memory.