I wrote this reflection last Thursday when I got back from a wonderful experience of accompanying the choir as they sang to Dale Kramer. Dale died on Monday afternoon, May 17. "O merciful Savior, Acknowledge, we pray, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming."
I hope Lillie remembers what she witnessed - - no - - what she was a part of this afternoon. I hope she remembers the body of Christ that piled into Dale's home on his 85th birthday and what will likely turn out to be one of his last days of earthly life. I hope she remembers the men and women who left work early today because sharing this time was more important than anything else they could have been doing, the ones who cancelled afternoon plans rather than miss out on this opportunity to share in the Spirit. I hope she remembers the birthday picture she colored for him.
I hope she remembers the great songs of faith that were sung, the words her 3 year old voice chimed in on about a half second after everyone else's sang them. I hope she remembers the harmony of voices, lifted up in prayer offered on behalf of a brother in Christ, offered for ourselves as we are already beginning to miss his regular presence among us. I hope she remembers that prayers don't have to be spoken in sentences by someone official to be prayers that are special to God. I hope she remembers the prayers of the notes mixing themselves together to provide familiar chords of comfort and honest mash-ups of dissonance. I hope she remembers the words - -
"Be still and know that I am God."
"Blessed Assurance! Jesus is mine!"
"Blest be the tie that binds"
"On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand"
"Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home."
I even hope she remembers the tears that streamed down many faces that witness to the love of the people of God for one another, the pain we feel when we know we're losing someone, when we're turning him over to God's tender care. I hope she remembers the joy on the faces of his family, their gratitude, their thankfullness for his friends who came to bless him and them with the best gift they know how to give. I hope she remembers the way he lifted his shaky voice to shout down from the hospital bed set up in the loft, "God bless you!" and the way men and women shouted back to him, "God bless you, too!" "We love you, Dale!"
I hope she remembers, no matter what else she learns or witnesses of the Church in the rest of her life, no matter what debates she experiences, no matter what human failings are a part of our institution, no matter what bickering she may hear, I hope she remembers this hour of the beloved community doing exactly what God wants us to do - worshiping, loving, sharing, praying, comforting, and celebrating the life of a true saint of God.
I hope she remembers.