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thoughts on rising from death…

Often, I’ve been close to death. Near it, I mean. Still, it never fails to be sacred. Rather it is a place and time of ‘holy mystery’ as I talked about in last Sunday’s homily. To that son in the ancient village of Nain, Jesus said, “Rise.” And then the man sat up, alive, “restored to his mother.” (Read the story here.) The whole crowd gathered was amazed because they had not been prepared for this mysterious encounter that brought new life.

I think that’s true for most of us when we face death, even if there is no visible resurrection at the bedside. Most of us are caught up in the expectations and details of the ending. We see, we grieve; our own breathing is labored as we try to imagine a way forward beyond the death. I think that’s true for most of us when we face death, even if there is no visible resurrection at the bedside. Most of us are caught up in the expectations and details of the ending. We see, we grieve; our own breathing is labored as we try to imagine a way forward beyond the death. Just so, that word of Jesus (sometimes voiced in the community of his friends and followers), that word, “Rise!” still sounds a little strange.

This week our congregation and the beloved community that gathers for Soup & Movies each Saturday receives word of Pat Champion’s death. Her big heart could not manage any more, and she died on Wednesday night. Beside the stretcher in the Emergency Room, I kept thinking “Rise!” as we prayed and watched while medical staff did what they could. In the end she did not sit up like the man in Nain. But I think she did rise. She rises beyond the pains and suffering of this world; her body no longer needing to bear the pain and struggle she’s carried so long. She rises, too, in the memories of all of us who share our favorite stories, who laugh and cry over what was shared and what we will miss. Pat rises, in that holy mystery of a homecoming to a loving, merciful God to whom Pat witnessed so faithfully in the care she gave to hundreds.

The call, “Rise!” now addresses you and me. How will we get up from this death and go on? What new life will be called forth in us as we seek to honor Pat’s memory and her service to others? I look forward to talking about this in coming weeks.                                                                                — Pastor Joanne Engquist

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Pat stirring up soup on a Saturday in 2012.

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