Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, Death, God, Grace, Inspiration, Peace, Religion, resurrection, Revival, Sermon, Spirituality, Wholeness
I Peter 1:17-23
“Susan had a very hard childhood. I guess her mother never gave her very much encouragement. I heard that her mother was a very unhappy old lady. You should have known her when her mother was alive. She was really quiet, but when she died something happened. She talks very bitterly about that time. It is a bit of an obsession for her.” A well-meaning member of Rev. Tammy’s church related this information as to why Susan seemed to be so unpleasant toward the new woman minister.
What Rev. Tammy knew about her parishioner named Susan was that she was meaner than snot. Every Monday this pastor would have to block out a certain amount of time to field a phone call from Susan. Susan used these times to let out a barrage of subtle and not so subtle criticisms of Tammy’s ministry. Susan didn’t like the pastor’s “squeaky” voice, the American flag was not prominent enough in the front of the sanctuary to honor the war heroes from the church, she didn’t agree with the pastor’s sermon, the younger members she had brought into the church didn’t do enough, and most of all, she deplored Tammy’s choice of fashion. Fashion was the greatest irk that Susan had on a daily basis and let her opinion flow quite freely.
“Why do you wear such ugly cloths, they make you look dowdy and plain?” Susan would ask Tammy while shaking her hand in the line up after the Sunday sermon.
To which Tammy nervously laughed and red faced moved to the next parishioner.
Even though the pastor was generous the constant criticism from this woman, along with the other complaints that a pastor generally fields were beginning to wear her down. It finally came to the point that the minister could no longer ignore the corrosive effect that this woman was having on her ministry and went to talk her.
For a time this seemed to stop the direct complaints but it was obvious that this unhappy woman was going underground with her gripes. She would talk to anyone who would be willing to listen to her. Tammy would find that she was now dealing with two or three parishioners talking about Susan’s complaints instead of Susan alone. One thing was obvious; Susan was an angry, miserable mess of a person.
Then Susan got cancer and it quickly metastasized throughout her entire body. This strong willed woman quickly became reduced to an emaciated shell. Soon she was hospitalized and it was whispered that she didn’t have long to live. So, Tammy decided to make a special visit to Susan in the hospital. Susan was weak and obviously happy to see her minister in her final hours. After the small talk was set aside Tammy asked Susan if she would let her read scripture and pray along with her. The 23rd Psalm was read and Susan began to cry. They held each other’s hands as Tammy prayed an emotional prayer. Tammy felt a deep and personal connection with Susan in that moment.
Weakly Susan motioned for Tammy to move closer. This was it, the moment that Tammy had worked so many hours to achieve, an acknowledgement of the importance of her presence in the midst of this woman’s final moments.
“Come closer,” Susan said softly.
Tammy was close enough to feel the labored breath on her cheek.
An awkward pause filled that room with only the sounds of medical equipment to fill the silence. Then in a much more forceful voice Susan whispered, “Couldn’t you find some jewelry to wear with that outfit? It looks so horrible. Some pearls, maybe even a pendant.”
Tammy couldn’t help but let out a little laugh, grasp Susan’s hand and tell her that she is loved. Very shortly after this encounter Susan passed away. It was a truly sad death of sad and bitter woman.
Bitterness, hatred, anger, jealousy and righteous indignation are difficult things to carry around with you an entire lifetime. Wouldn’t it be a much easier life without carrying the past with you into every conversation, every relationship, every commitment and every period of your life? I am not talking about ignoring abuse or naïve enough to believe that sexual, physical and emotional abuse isn’t something that forms a personality to its core. Yet, we are such a conservative society when it comes to the belief in the possibility of hope in the midst of suffering. Sometimes we are even disbelievers in the possibility of change. Often we too easily become victims and victimized by things far less essential to our nature. The apostle Peter thinks that essentially at the nature of Christ’s death and resurrection is the liberal possibility in believing in the hope of change. Peter claims that Jesus turns his rightful place as a victim martyr into the glorious hope of new life, new possibility and the radical claim that out of death God can create life.
Going against the Old Testament Peter makes the culturally and religiously blasphemous assertion that a strange teacher from Nazareth has released the shackling chains of negative ancestry. That no matter the situation there is still the opportunity for resurrection. Genetic dispositions, childhood trauma and terrible life circumstances can and will surround our personalities. Yet, we have heard of the most remarkable resurrections from children soldiers, refugees, raped women and families left behind in the wake of murder. Whether we find ourselves enslaved by the most brutal family histories or much more petty anger that will not let us go know that our faith allows us to believe that there is the possibility of laying down that burden at our own cross and walking away resurrected. Will we immediately quit feeling pain, suffering, depression, anger, anxiety or fear again? No, but we will once again regain the hope that we might know the full canopy of emotions blotted out by our pasts. That we might know in our lives Peter’s admonition, “…love one another deeply, from the heart. You have been born anew!”
Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment