The Jewish Hasidic tradition teaches that everyone should have two pockets in their coats with two slips of paper. One slip says: “I am only dust and ashes.” The other “For me the whole universe was created.”
Good Folks, it is Friday, February 12, 2016. Three days until Sunday: Valentine’s Day and Children’s Sabbath. It is also 45 days until Easter (Day of Resurrection).
The above quote was one that I did not read during the Ash Wednesday service. I had it noted on my sermon page, but did not make it to the congregation that evening. On Tuesday, April 2, 2002, late in the afternoon, my sister Virginia took her last breath. She was surrounded by family and friends. I was there. I remember asking everyone to hold hands and pray. We gave thanks to God for her life and asked God to comfort us, and especially for our mother who to had to bury a child.
My sister’s death was a defining moment in my life. Not because she asked me to officiate her funeral service, which I reluctantly agreed to do, but because she was a sibling, a contemporary. She was the first of the six children born to my parents that died.
In 2002, I had 14 years under my belt as a pastor of three churches. I had done many funerals; however, it was my sister’s death that made me aware of my own mortality. She made me aware of my impending death one day. [Wow. I said it and got that out of my system.]
From dust I came, and to dust I shall return.
Of the seasons in the church’s calendar, Lent stands at the top. It is a constant reminder of preparations towards the greatest gift from God: Easter. Good Friday shows us God’s love. Easter shows us God’s power. I hold on to the promise of the power of the resurrection.
This season of Lent 2016, Alex and I will be preaching from the Gospel of Luke. For Sunday, your assignment is to read chapters 1-3.
I miss my sister. I have good memories growing up. Her birth spot was right in the middle of four boys: two older, two younger, and she could beat the tar out of her brothers collectively. She was tough, and had one of the kindest and generous hearts I have ever known.
Remember: From dust you came, and to dust you shall return.
Make the most of each moment in between the beginning and the last.
See you Sunday. God is counting on you to be there for marching orders.