Wednesday, August 8, 2012

An emotional time


While I was giving out the bread at communion at the early service last Sunday, one of the ushers slipped in line.  As I handed her the bread she whispered "come see me after communion."  I left the sanctuary as the congregation stood for the closing hymn: "I am the bread of life." 

The usher had just received a phone call letting the church know that a beloved member, K, had died.  Her death came sooner than we thought it would, but it wasn't a surprise. K had been suffering since Christmas.  She called in hospice earlier in the week and I'd visited her and her husband.  Our time together was of a different quality than earlier times.  I am leaving the church, but she was facing her death.  When we said goodbye, we knew we would not see each other again in this world.

After receiving the news, I came back into the sanctuary mid-hymn: "I am the resurrection and the life. If you  believe in me, even though you die you shall live forever."  I choked back the tears.  The kingdom of God was near. 

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The hymn continues: "And I will raise you up..."

These last weeks have been full of grief.  Two weeks ago, a dear friend learned that his 32 year old son died while mountain climbing in Peru.  I'd never met the son, but I happened to be with the family when they got the terrible news.  Witnessing their pain, it was impossible not to hurt as well.  A huge crowd gathered for the funeral yesterday.  It was a testament to a life lived in faith and a death that is not the end.  Still, hearts are breaking.

"...and I will raise you up..."

These last weeks have also brought the 2-year anniversary of a college friend's death; the end of a marriage of someone I care about; the shootings in Aurora and Wisconsin.  Plus, I'm grieving my church.

"...and I will raise you up on the last day..."

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At the late service, as I started in on the Eucharistic Prayer (the long one where we say take and eat...) I knew I was going to cry.  It was the last time I'd preside over communion at Prince of Peace; K's death was in the front of all our minds; my friend was preparing for his son's funeral; and I was staring out at a congregation full of people I'd grown to love, many of whom were tearing up as well.

When I lifted the bread, tears started flowing.

I went slowly through the prayer, having to pause often to regain confidence in my voice.  "who on this day overcame death and the grave...we await that day...so let your church be gathered...that all may be fed..."

I've never seen a pastor cry at communion before.  For a moment I felt embarrassed, but then I thought: what better time to cry than communion? What better time to realize how much love is coursing through the world than in that exchange?

Handing out the bread there were times I could not get the words out. I distributed communion while tears ran down my face.  I suppose it might sound kind of beautiful, except that I'm not a pretty crier. Snot was mixing with tears and I was trying not to drip on the bread. At one point I had to get a 2nd purificator (little holy handkerchief) to wipe my nose. The congregation received the bread with their own mix of smiles and tears.  Someone with hands outstretched looked at me with understanding and twinkling eyes.  She whispered "bigger piece please" and winked, and then I started laughing too.

As I walked out of church for the second time, singing the same hymn, through the tears I felt the conviction of faith well up.  I sang as clearly as I could:

"Yes Lord, I believe, that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who has come into the world."

In the face of grief, there's no greater gift than faith.

Yes Lord, I believe.

4 comments:

  1. Amen! Wherevery you go remember to always Preach it Sarah! ML

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  2. This is beautiful, Sarah. I think it's also beautiful when one isn't afraid to share their emotions and humanity so freely. Thanks for the posting and the reminders about how incredible communion and community are. Peace be with you.

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  3. Your willingness to bare your soul and show your vulnerability is one of the qualities that make you such a charismatic pastor. Your faith is a model for me. I hope you're never too embarrassed to cry, whether tears of joy, sadness, gratitude . . . .

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  4. Pr. Sarah, A beautiful post...thank you for sharing it with us.
    I continue to be grateful for the welcome you gave me when I visited POP during Holy Week over a year ago and I am grateful to have made your acquaintance. I pray God's blessings on you as you move to a new church. Peace be with you.
    ARR in Southwest VA

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